What Is a Trademark?

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A trademark is something that indicates the origin of a product or service, and to which consumer goodwill attaches.

What are the different types of marks?

There are several varieties of marks, all of which these guide will refer to as “trademarks” for convenience:

  • Trademarks (for products, like Ronzoni for pasta),
  • Service marks (for services, like Accenture accounting services),
  • Collective membership marks (indicating membership in a group or organization, like USW union services), and
  • Certification marks, which certify that a product or service meets certain standards. These may impose technical standards, like Underwriters Laboratories for electric goods UL for pasta), or geographically-based standards, like Michigan Apples for produce, Michigan Apples

There are also similar rights like geographical indications, rights of publicity, government/non-governmental/intra-governmental identifiers, and more.

What can be a mark?

A mark can be almost anything.

  • A word, like APPLE for computers,
  • A phrase or slogan, like JUST DO IT for shoes,
  • A logo or other stylized mark, like FedEx, or Twitter for social networking services,
  • A color, like pink for Owens Corning’s insulation products,
  • A shape, like the shape of the Jim Beam whiskey bottle,
  • And More!

Whatever the type and nature of the mark, consumers begin to associate that mark with a single guarantor of the quality of a product or service, even if they do not know exactly who or what that provider is.