If you use a slogan or logo, consider registering your company’s marks, both to protect your investment in the mark and to prevent unintentional violations of marks of other businesses. A trademark is either a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.

Generally, the first party who uses a mark in commerce has the ultimate right to register a mark. Registration in California is effective for 10 years, renewable for another 10 years, and there is no limitation on the number of renewals. Registration with the state of California serves as prima facie evidence of ownership of such mark as applied to the goods or services and it is constructive notice of the registrant = s claim of ownership.

In addition to establishing the right of use, a registered mark acts as a shield against potential law suits and protects the owner of the mark from others who have concurrent or prior use of a similar mark. Any owner of a mark registered may proceed by suit to enjoin the manufacture, use, display or sale of any counterfeits. California law provides that any court of competent jurisdiction may grant injunctions and shall require the defendants to pay to the owner up to three times their profits from and up to three times all damages suffered by reason of the wrongful manufacture, use, display, or sale of a registered mark.

You can also obtain national protection by registration with the US Patent and Trademark Office. A U.S. registration requires that the product or service behind the mark be placed in interstate or international commerce. Use of a mark in purely local commerce within a state does not qualify as interstate commerce. An applicant may apply for federal registration in two principal ways: (1) An applicant who has already commenced using a mark in commerce may file based on that use (a @ use @ application). Advertising without actually providing the product or service will not qualify as a A use @ application. (2) An applicant who has not yet used the mark may apply based on a bona fide intention to use the mark in commerce (an A intent-to-use @ application).

Author: Mark W. Bidwell