What Laws Protect Trademarks?

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There are a variety of laws that protect trademarks. These laws exist at both the state and national levels.

Are State or Federal Trademarks More Valuable?

Trademark law was initially done at the state level before there were 50 states. At the time, that was sufficient, as many businesses didn’t operate on a national level. However, by the late 1800s, a need for a more unified trademark program emerged. The federal government put the first national trademark law into place. Over the years, the federal laws have expanded and largely taken over what used to be run by the states. Today there are still state trademark laws that can be used, but it’s important to know that those laws only protect someone in the state where their business is located. If someone violates that trademark but in another state, the original business has little recourse. Having a federally registered trademark carries weight across state lines.

What Federal Laws Protect Trademarks?

The primary federal law is the Lanham Act, which entered into law in 1946 and still exists today. It has been updated over the years and now is the governing law around trademarks. It provides consistency across the nation so that there is far less confusion when multiple states are involved in trademark litigation and concerns.

What Does the Lanham Act Do?

The Lanham Act developed the standards for what can be considered trademarkable and whether something will receive a trademark. There are two primary considerations for whether a trademark will be registered. The first is if it will be used in use in commerce. Personal or placeholder trademarks are not allowed. Trademarks are strictly for business purposes.

The second consideration is whether or not the trademarked item is distinctive. That means it shouldn’t resemble, either in terms of wording or graphically, other trademarked items. If a proposed logo too strongly resembles an existing national company’s logo, and that company trademarked it first, the too-similar one will be rejected.

What Is the Best Way to Develop a Distinctive Trademark?

Research the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database of existing trademarks. Finding out what other companies have already done can help whittle down the choices. Beyond that, look for names that are unusual and not too closely aligned with existing names, or choose logos that don’t strongly resemble those already trademarked. The more generic the name, the less likely the USPTO will grant a trademark for it. “Best Baked Goods” is generic, while “Diane’s Devilish Delights” is more likely to be unique (but research still needs to happen—there can be another Diane out there with the same idea).

Let Us Advise You

Trademark law can be complex and intimidating. Call us today to learn about the services we offer to assist with trademark registration and laws.


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