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Do you know what you can (and cannot) trademark?

Jun 13, 2023 | Copyright & Trademark Litigation and Applications

In today’s competitive business environment, a strong brand can set you apart from the competition. And when you’ve burned the midnight oil and created a stellar product or service, you need to protect it from unlawful exploitation by third parties. This is where the trademark comes in. 

If you are contemplating trademarking your creation, you need to start by finding whether your creation does qualify for this type of intellectual protection in the first place. 

So, what can you trademark?

A trademark, or a service mark, basically identifies a brand with the products or services it offers. Generally, you can trademark your business’ logo, abbreviations, catchphrases, sounds or packaging designs. Of course, the nitty-gritty may vary with jurisdictions. That said, here are conditions that you must satisfy before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can approve your trademark:

  • Your creation must be original and distinctive. Thus, to trademark your company name or product, then it must be suggestive or arbitrary.
  • Your mark must be applicable to specific products or services as stipulated in your trademark application

However, intellectual property rights may overlap provided the target product or services can be trademarked. 

Here are instances when the USPTO may refuse your trademark application:

  • If it lacks distinction: Basically, you cannot trademark a term that is reserved for common use like a “cup.” Likewise, you cannot trademark a symbol or a mark that does not present any specific commercial enterprise to the public.
  • If it is likely to confuse the public: You cannot trademark any symbol or sound that is identical in some way to an already registered trademark. 

A strong trademark is crucial for your brand’s success. Learning more about USPTO regulations can help you successfully trademark your creation and enhance your brand recognition and customer loyalty.