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Trademark basics

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Definition: A trademark is any word, symbol, or phrase used to identify and distinguish one’s goods.  The trademark “Starbucks,” for example, identifies and distinguishes the coffee of one particular company from that of another (e.g., Seattle Coffee Company). 

When such marks are used to identify services rather than products, they are called service marks.  [This article’s discussion of topics related to trademarks applies equally to service marks.]    

Characteristics: To serve as a trade or service mark, and to be subject to protection under the law, a mark must be distinctive, or capable of identifying the source of a particular good or service. 

To determine the distinctiveness of marks, courts group them into four categories based on their relationship with the underlying product or service.

Generic terms describe the general category to which the underlying product or service belongs, and they cannot serve as trade o...(register to read more)

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