By Alan Graner
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and the following is not legal advice. If you have any questions, talk to your attorney.
What is a trademark?
A trademark (™) is often defined as “a word, name, symbol or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others.”
A service mark (sm) is the same as a trademark but is used to distinguish services.
A registered trademark (®) is one that has been registered with the U.S. Patent Office and provides the owner with extra legal protection and is good for 10 years plus annual renewals.
Trademarks are almost always adjectives, not nouns
What do the following words have in common: escalator, aspirin, cellophane, heroin, kerosene, thermos, trampoline, videotape?
At one time these were all trademarked names. But over time they became generic words and lost their trademarks. They became nouns.
That’s why, as you grab a kleenex or xerox a copy or google a company, their parent corporations go bananas. They know once their trademarked names enter the dictionary as generics (nouns), the millions they’ve spent in brand awareness will have been lost.
Therefore they go to great lengths to remind you to buy Kleenex® Brand tissues, photocopy on a Xerox® copier and use Google® search. It’s to protect their trademarks.
The value of trademarked brands
What’s a trademarked brand worth?
Some suggest the Coca-Cola® trademark brand is worth perhaps $100 billion.
Obviously the worth of your WonderWidget™ is nowhere in that stratosphere. Still, to you it’s a valuable business asset.
And for good reason. Trademarked brands help consumers make informed decisions. Often, trademarks denote intangible qualities such as quality, value, peace of mind.
To relinquish those marks without fighting to protect them is marketing suicide.
How do you protect your trademark?
Next: Genericide, or how to lose your trademark
Image: darkuncle via Flickr®
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business marketing content and distribution firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.