A trademark is a word, symbol, or name which differentiates one product or thing from another, whereas a copyright protects original intellectual property, including written, musical and artistic works, among many others, both published and unpublished. Trademarks are essential to the success of businesses, according to the website of Gagnon, Peacock & Vereeke, P.C. They help to regulate commerce and ensure fair competition among brands, while preventing confusion among consumers.

The first step to securing a trademark is to do a trademark search. This can typically be accomplished on the Internet for searching the name in question and its product category, as well as similar variations on the name in the category. If the search results in finding a similar product with the same name, it would be best to choose another name. Moving forward with a trademark that is already in use by another entity can subject you to lawsuits and result in having to relinquish the name, in addition to paying damages and lawyers’ fees. After searching the Internet, consult the United States Patent and Trademark Office database as a final source on the subject.

If your search results in no findings, you can then file for your trademark with the USPTO. If approved, it is awarded protected from competitors, and protects the integrity of the brand, while differentiating it from similar brands.

Once the trademark has been awarded to your brand or service, it can be infringed upon when it is used in an unauthorized fashion, typically by a competing brand or service. If this occurs, the owner of the trademark can file a lawsuit against the user of the infringement, and if found guilty, will be awarded damages. The court rules on whether or not the infringement could be confusing to the average consumer of the product. Ultimately, trademarks serve to protect words, phrases and logos used in commerce, typically to help identify brands of goods and services.


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