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Trademarks, service marks and trade dress identify companies

You want people to recognize your service or product easily. One way that you might do this is through a special mark. Most people think of trademarks in this regard, but there are other types that can also identify your business.

It is possible to have more than one mark that identifies your company. Understanding the different types can be helpful.

3 types of identifying marks

There are three types of marks that can identify your business. These are defined by the law and are administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

  • Trademark: A design, word, symbol, phrase or combination of these that sets a business apart from others
  • Trade dress: Packaging that is distinctive for a specific product or good
  • Service mark: This is similar to a trademark but used by a service-based business to identify it

As you might be able to tell, these three types of marks can work together to help keep a business' image noticeable by the general public. Because this is such a big marketing area, companies must take steps to protect them.

Registering marks

One of the best ways that you can protect your company's identifying marks is to register them with the USPTO. This gives you a tangible record of the mark so that you have that to draw on if there is ever an instance in which a person or another entity tries to take the mark to use as its own or tries to copy it with only subtle changes.

This is an important point to remember about these identifying marks. Other businesses can't make changes to them and use those for their company if there is a chance that people will mistake their altered mark for your registered mark.

When infringement occurs

Trademark infringement can lead to a civil action. This might be taken in federal court or in state court, depending on the specifics of the case. If you believe that someone is using your trademark or other marks without permission, you can ask the court to stop them from using it. Other remedies also include:

  • Monetary relief that can include the costs of court action, any damages sustained and profits the defendant made
  • Forfeiture or destruction of items bearing the mark
  • Payment of attorney fees

Before you act on a claim of trademark infringement, you should contact your attorney to find out how the specifics of your case may be impacted by laws. This can help you develop a plan to deal with the matter.

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