What are the Different Rules of Trademark Use?

Daphne Mallory
Daphne Mallory
Part of an application to register a trademark.
Part of an application to register a trademark.

Trademark use primarily pertains to distinguishing goods in the marketplace. Trademarks are also used to show the source of a good or product so that consumers know who they are buying from. Individuals, businesses, and organizations with a trademark ownership have exclusive rights to use it in the marketplace how they see fit as long as they don’t infringe on another party's trademarks. These rights include the right to license the trademark and the right to exclusively use it for commercial purposes. Trademark registration can also be used to stop foreign goods that infringe on those trademarks from being imported into the country where the registration is granted.

Trademarks are symbols, words, or a combination of the two that distinguish the goods of one company from another. Many consumers recognize them as the brand names or logos of the companies they do business with. If there were no distinctions, then consumers might get confused and purchase goods from competitors when they meant to buy them from the owner of the trademark. The main purpose of trademark laws is to prevent such confusion in the marketplace, and often to punish those who intentionally promote confusion of brands in the marketplace. Many individuals and business owners file a trademark application and use a registered trademark to put the public on notice of the trademark ownership and their trademark rights.

Another type of trademark use is to clearly show the source of goods. The public often knows who manufactured a particular good if it’s associated with a trademark. Companies often invest time and money to build their brands and associated trademarks so that customers can expect quality products or pricing that their competitors do not offer. For example, some consumers will only purchase computers from a particular manufacturer and will look for that company’s trademark when making a purchase. The trademark is verification that the source of the computer is from the particular manufacturer.

Licensing is a popular form of trademark use among business owners and individuals who own trademarks. A license grants permission to another to use the trademark for a limited time. The license can grant an exclusive or non-exclusive use, and it’s often in exchange for compensation. For example, the owner of a trademark may license its trademark to a retailer to use it in connection with print, web, and media advertising. The retailer is often not guilty of trademark infringement because of the license as long as it acts within the scope of the license that was granted.

A registered trademark often cannot stop others from making the same goods. Owners who want that outcome must often file a patent application and get it approved. A trademark can be used to prevent trademark infringement, and owners of a trademark can seek a court injunction to stop any authorized use. One type of trademark use is to prevent foreign importers from using a company’s domestic trademark without permission. For example, a company based in the United States can file papers with the United States Customs Service to stop imports from entering the country that infringe on its trademark.

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    • Part of an application to register a trademark.
      By: fuzzbones
      Part of an application to register a trademark.