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December 5, 2022

What Can Be Protected Under Trademark Law?

Trademarks represent different businesses in the market. There could be different businesses selling the same product or rendering the same services, but what differentiates them is their unique trademark.

 

There are many different reasons that people trademark their business identity, and if you’re starting one in a place like Houston, TX, you should consider doing so. Trademarks can protect others from using names, symbols, and other things associated with your business. This will ensure branding is unique to you.

 

However, getting a trademark can be a process. Before trademarking your business ideas, start by checking with a trademark attorney Houston TX has to offer.

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You might be wondering, though, what can be protected under trademark law? Keep reading to find out.

What is protected under trademark law?

A trademark is any name, word, symbol, device, or combination that identifies a business’ goods or services, making it distinct from others. It’s something that represents only your brand in the marketplace.

 

It can be a problem when customers confuse another brand for yours, which is why there are laws to prevent this from happening.

 

Trademark law protects the following.

Words

Words unique to businesses are protected under trademark law. Single or multiple words and slogans can be trademarked. If you feel a word is unique to you in the marketplace, you can make it yours.

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Trademarking will prohibit someone else within the same state as you from using it until you register it federally. Furthermore, you can also trademark the style of lettering you use to present the words.

Designs

Trademark laws protect designs unique to a business. By creating a design, your audience can connect it to your product or service, ensuring it belongs to your business only. However, you’ll have to ensure that the design is unique and not similar to other people’s, as you could be infringing on their trademarks.

 

Your design must be distinct and not a common shape like a circle or an ornamental background. The trademark could also be a string of words or a design element.

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Numbers and letters

You can also register numbers and a set of letters as trademarks. An example of this is CNN, who has this string of letters registered as a trademark. The only caveat is that it should be something not generally known.

Sounds

Trademark law also protects sounds unique to businesses. Sounds, like the roaring lion at the beginning of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies, can be trademarked, and anyone using it for financial benefit without permission is infringing upon it.

 

Likewise, if you have a unique sound and want it to be associated with your product, brand, or service, it becomes your trademark, as long as no one else has used it before.

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Shapes

You can register product shapes as trademarks as well, as long as it doesn’t affect the marketplace and isn’t considered something that’s functional.

 

An example is the famously curved Coca-Cola bottle that the company has registered as a trademark. The bottle isn’t enhancing its product function, so it gets a pass.

Fragrances

Trademark laws protect fragrances as long as the smell isn’t the product itself. You can’t register the fragrance if it’s for a perfume or deodorizer, for example, or if it’s associated with fragrances. However, it’s eligible if it’s for something like a box or yarn.

Color

Trademark law covers color as long as it isn’t functional. If the color isn’t associated with the product or service, you can trademark it for your brand. Additionally, the color shouldn’t enhance the product for use. You can’t register the color for a trademark if it’s useful in connection to the product.

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Furthermore, you cannot trademark a color for your business if there’s competition in the marketplace for it, because you’ll deprive other business owners of using it.

Trade dress

Trade dress is the design, packaging, and configuration unique to a product. Trademark law covers unique trade dress and prevents others from using it.

 

However, not all trade dress is protected. For you to sue someone for trade dress infringement, the product must be so distinct that customers link the product with it.

Moving images

Trademarking moving images is an emerging field. Trademark protects moving images on your website, your products, or holograms.

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What isn’t protected under trademark law?

Not every name, symbol, or number is protected under trademark law. There are a few exceptions.

Generic trademarks

Generic trademarks cannot be protected. These are common terms people use to name their services or products. For example, “shoes” cannot be trademarked because it’s generic. The only way to get it trademarked is to combine it with other unique words or signs.

Descriptive trademarks

Descriptive trademarks mainly describe the product or services and their characteristics. For example, you’re likely to associate “cold and creamy” with ice cream because it describes the product. Therefore, trademark law won’t cover that.

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Confusing trademarks

The USPTO is unlikely to grant trademark protection to a confusing mark or one similar to an existing mark. Therefore, you can’t register a trademark similar to an existing one. You should research carefully before choosing a trademark, and the best way to do that is by hiring a trademark attorney.

Conclusion

Generally, trademark law protects unique symbols, words, numbers, fragrances, and colors that are not generic, descriptive, or functional. You should consider that when choosing a trademark. In addition, you should do proper research to determine whether the trademark is unique and new.

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