Understanding Trademarks, Service Marks, Trade Dress & Licensing

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Although hard assets carry value, your company’s branding, logo and other symbols that make your business identifiable are invaluable to your success. You must protect these intangible assets through trademarks, service marks and other forms of intellectual property protection.

Trademark law is a highly complex field. For that reason, it is important that you have representation from business law attorneys who are well-versed in registering trademarks as well as managing, enforcing and protecting your intellectual property rights.

Using trademarks and service marks to protect your brand

What Are Trademarks?

A trademark can be a word, phrase, logo, symbol, color or sound — or a combination of elements — that distinguishes your business from any other. It allows prospects and customers to readily identify your products, and serves to communicate the quality, value and reputation of your company and its products.

The Nike “swoosh” is one well-known example of a strong, enduring trademark.

To protect your brand identity, you must register your trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Because this process is so complex and difficult, the USPTO recommends hiring an experienced trademark attorney who is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction to help you. You cannot receive legal advice or assistance with the forms and procedures necessary to obtain a trademark from anyone other than a licensed attorney.

What Are Service Marks, Trade Names and Trade Dress?

A service mark is essentially identical to a trademark, but rather than products, it is used to represent services.

A trade name is used to identify a business, as opposed to a product or service.

Trade dress is the term used to describe the design elements, packaging and the overall look and feel of a specific product. Trade dress is the full package of elements you use to represent and promote a product. Think about the iconic, hourglass shape and lettering of a Coca Cola bottle, for instance.

These elements can be registered through USPTO. However, other legal protections protect trade dress specifically; these protections are known as the Langham Act.

Understanding Intellectual Property Licensing

If you franchise your business, you must grant specific license to your franchisees to use your trademarks and related elements of intellectual property. You may also need to grant licensure to distributors, joint venture partners, dealers and others, based on your business model and goals.

Licensing is equally complex, due to concerns about how licensees could potentially harm your reputation and goodwill if they misuse your brand or fail to uphold the high standards you have established.

The Importance of Working with a Trademark Lawyer

Working with an experienced trademark lawyer is an effective way to ensure the legal protection of your trademarks and other intellectual property.

In Salt Lake City, the trademark attorneys of the Franchise & Business Law Group have extensive knowledge and experience in this complex area of the law. We can assist you with every aspect of registering, managing, protecting and enforcing your trademarks, service marks and trade dress. We can also negotiate the terms of licensing agreements and provide the necessary assistance to enforce them.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our Utah trademark attorneys.