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Trademark Frequently Asked Questions

trademark questions What laws/statutes govern trademark law?

The Lanham Act, title 15 of the US Code governs trademark law and contains the applicable federal statutes.

What is a certification mark?

A certification mark is any word, symbol or device, or any combination thereof, someone is using (or really intends to use in the future) in commerce that certifies the region, origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality accuracy or other characteristics of the goods or services.  It may also certify that members of a union or other organization performed the work or labor on the goods or services.

What is a collective membership mark?

A collective membership mark is a word, logo or design that designates membership in an organization, such as a trade association, union or fraternal association.  The mark is used to indicate membership in an organization.

What is trade dress?

Traditionally, trade dress protected the product packaging, but now the protection has broadened.  Now, trade dress is the overall appearance and impression of a product.  This includes the design, size, shape, texture, color, color combinations, graphics, and even some product marketing schemes.  Requirements for trade dress protection are similar to that of trademarks.  Trade dress must be distinct and nonfunctional.

What is a collective mark?

A collective mark is a trademark or service mark that is used (or is intended to be used) by the members of cooperative, association or other collective group or association.  The mark must be owed by the collective, and so the collective permits the members to use the mark.

When can a trademark owner stop someone from using the trademark?

If another person is using a similar mark in a manner that is likely to cause consumer confusion (i.e. using the mark on similar goods, particularly when a mark has nationwide fame or use is within the same market) or in a manner likely to cause dilution, then there may be an actionable claim.  In sum, once another party has acted in a way that infringes upon the trademark owner’s rights, then the trademark owner should immediately consult a legal advisor or professional.

Are Internet domain names covered by trademark law?

Domain names are unique names or designations that identify a particular computer (web server or mail server) on the Internet. Generally speaking, domain names are protected by trademark law.  If the word distinguishes and identifies a source or site owner selling goods and services, from those of another, then that domain name may be registered. Some examples are uspto.gov, or the International Trademark Association or “inta” at inta.gov.

Can trademark ownership be assigned or transferred from one person to another?

Ownership of registered and unregistered trademarks can be transferred or assigned to another.  Assignments must be in writing and “duly executed.”  Recording the assignment with the USPTO (Assignment Division 703-308-9723)  is good evidence to show that the transfer was valid (a fee is charged).  There are different limitations and requirements for intent to use applications.

How does someone contest the use of a similar trademark by someone else?

Unauthorized trademark use may be challenged in a variety of ways depending on the facts of the situation.  Most enforcement actions for trademarks are brought in federal courts.  It is advisable to contact an attorney as soon as possible as time is of the essence and trademark litigation is complex.

Federal trademark registration is not valid outside of the United States, but it may be used as a basis for foreign registration.  The WIPO has a service where a trademark owner does not need to register separately at each nation and region.


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