A trademark is a recognizable sign, design or expression which serves as a source identifier for consumers. A trademark is a form of intellectual property that can be owned by an individual, a business organization, or any other legal entity. Trademarks can be located on packaging, labels, vouchers, or on the product itself. Companies often feature trademarks on company buildings to show corporate identity.
In the United States, the USPTO maintains a database of registered trademarks. The database is completely open to the public, however a licensed attorney may be required to interpret the meaning of the search results. Because trademarks are governed by federal law, state law, and common law, it is important to ensure that you are conducting a thorough search. Conducting a trademark search and relying upon the results of a licensed attorney can insulate business owners from being required to pay treble damages (3x normal damages) and attorney's fees in the event that a trademark infringement lawsuit is filed.
In Europe, trademark searches must be conducted with with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and with individual country offices.
Trademarks are legally a form of property. Rights in relation to a trademark can be obtained through either actual use in the marketplace or through formal registration of the mark with the trademark office of a particular jurisdiction.
Trademark Registration in the United States
In the United States, the registration process includes roughly five steps. The entire process will require a minimum of 10 - 12 months.
A registered trademark confers a set of exclusive rights upon the registered trademark owner. Common rights include the right to exclusive use of the mark in the relation to products or services for which it is registered. Once trademark rights are established in a particular jurisdiction, these rights can generally only be enforced in that jurisdiction. However, there is a range of international trademark systems that allow for the protection of trademarks across multiple jurisdictions.