Explain how trademarks and service marks are used.
Trademarks and Service Marks
A trademark is any distinctive name (Calvin Klein), short phrase (Just Do It), logo (McDonald's golden arches), or graphic design (the Nike swoosh) that distinguishes goods made by the owner of the mark, rather than services.
A service mark protects services. Think of it as the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product (for example, consulting or management services).
For all practical purposes, trademarks and service marks are subject to the same rules of validity, use, protection, and infringement.
Marks are visual cues for consumers. They let us know who makes a product or provides a service. When a mark becomes synonymous with quality, it becomes a valuable business asset to its owner.
Anyone who claims rights with a mark may use the ™ (trademark) or SM (service mark) designation to alert the public to the claim.
You do not need a registration or even a pending application to use these designations.
Trademark law is a fascinating subject for many people, in part because most everybody in our society understands and appreciates the power of popular trademarks, such as Chrysler, IBM, Subway, and Microsoft. Trademarks are such an integral part of our language and culture that we all have a vested interest in their protection. Since trademarks are all about meaning, trademark disputes are a kind of spectator sport:
They involve popular cultural icons and turn on questions such as whether the average person is likely to be confused if a trademark is used improperly. So in many respects, everybody gets to have an opinion on trademark issues, and that opinion more often than not counts for something in the final analysis of trademark disputes.
In the next lesson, you will learn how to register a trademark.