Trademarks & Service Marks
A Trademark or Service mark is a word, phrase, or logo that identifies your business as a unique source of goods or services. There are commercial advantages to marks; they allow consumers to easily identify your brand, and distinguish it from your competition. It also discourages other businesses from using a word / phrase / logo that is “confusingly similar.”
If your product or service is offered nationally, you may consider filing a trademark application is with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office, where it will be examined by attorneys to ensure that it is unique. The process will let you know that you are not accidentally infringing on someone else’s trademark, which could subject you and your business to legal sanctions.
There are other legal protections and benefits as well:
1) Trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office get more protection in federal courts than unregistered trademarks.
2) “Incontestability,” which means that after five years of unopposed registration, a trademark can become legally “incontestable,” i.e. it cannot be challenged because it is “merely descriptive.”
3) Infringers cannot claim that they did not know the trademark exists.
4) Infringers and counterfeiters may have to pay damages and criminal penalties.
5) Owners of businesses with registered trademarks have the right to ask the U.S. Customs Service to prevent the importation of goods bearing infringing trademarks.
A registered trademark is a business asset. An unregistered trademark offers no legal protections against infringement or fraud.
If you do business only in Connecticut, a mark can help you distinguish your mark from competition in Connecticut and protect your brand reputation from your competitors.
Trademarks are not to be confused with trade names which do not afford protections to a business owner. Trade names are names used by a business owner to do business in certain towns in which the business is registered. Connecticut law requires an individual or business that does business under another name to register a “trade name”.