What is a trademark?

Glenn W. Peterson

The primary goal of your business or organization is to make your mark within your local industry in Sacramento. While such a phrase is typically used in a metaphorical context, it can often be manifest literally through your company’s trademarks. While you likely understand that protections are available to different types of sensitive business material, you may not fully comprehend the distinct differences between them. For example, much confusion exists over what exactly is a trademark.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies unique goods and/or services offered by either an individual or an organization. It differs from copyrighted material in that copyrights are meant to protect content that is in a tangible medium of expression (e.g. books, films, plays, artwork). Trademarks, on the other hand, offer protection to business brands.

That does not mean, however, that only artistic elements like your company’s logo can be trademarked. Numbers, words or slogans can also be trademarked provided that they establish a unique association with your brand. “Unique” in this context does not offer any room for interpretation; you cannot trademark a general phrase like “Made in America” because it can apply to so many different brands.

Your trademarked material’s uniqueness is established when you file for your trademark. You must provide a complete reproduction of the material in your application, including unique elements like design and color-scheme. Along with that, you must include a complete list of the products or services that the proposed trademark applies to. Any omissions would mean that even if your trademark application is approved, a product or service left off your list could be associated with another mark without your being able to claim its exclusivity.