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What is a "trademark"?

A trademark is:

  • any word, name, symbol or device or any combination of these,
  • used or intended to be used,
  • in commerce,
  • to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others and 5) to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.

Example: On computers, "Apple" is a trademark. It distinguishes computers manufactured by the Apple Corporation.

What is a "service mark?"

The trademark's first cousin is a service mark. Instead of a product, the service mark identifies a service business. A service mark is: 1) any word, name, symbol, device or any combination of these, 2) used or intended to be used, 3) in commerce, 4) to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others and 5) to indicate the source of the services. A service mark is used on services such as insurance or financial services.

What is a "certification mark?"

A certification mark is:

  • any word, name, symbol, device or any combination of these,
  • used or intended to be used,
  • in commerce,
  • with the owner's permission,
  • by someone other than its owner,
  • to certify regional or other geographic origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy or other characteristics of someone's goods or services or to certify that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization.

Example: The certification of electrical goods by Underwriter's Laboratories-i.e., the "UL" label-is a certification mark. Also, when you "look for the union label," the union label is a certification mark.

What is a "collective mark?"

A collective mark is a:

  • trademark or service mark,
  • used or intended to be used,
  • in commerce,
  • by the members of a cooperative, an association or other collective group or organization, including a mark which indicates membership in a union, an association or other organization.

What is trade dress?

Trade dress is a distinctive way of packaging-a certain type of box shape or color, for instance. Trade dress can be protected in the same way that a trademark or service mark is.

What do "intrastate commerce" and "interstate commerce" mean, and why do I need to know the difference?

A mark must be used or intended to be used "in commerce." For federal registration, goods or services must be used or intended to be used in "interstate commerce." For goods, "interstate commerce" involves sending the goods across state lines with the mark displayed on the goods or the packaging for the goods. With services, "interstate commerce" involves offering a service to those in another state or rendering a service that affects interstate commerce (such as restaurants, gas stations and hotels).

For a state registration goods or services must be used or intended to be used in "intrastate commerce," i.e., within a single state. For goods, "intrastate commerce" means sending the goods within a state with the mark displayed on the goods or the packaging for the goods. For services, "intrastate commerce" means offering a service to those within the state or rendering a service to those within a particular state.