Trademarks are a type of intellectual property or IP protection that covers and protects small pieces of IP such as words, phrases, symbols, titles, designs or combinations of the above that uniquely identify something as belonging to someone. Think of brands – Coca Cola has a trademark on the name, font and logo seen on their products, meaning that without their explicit permission, nobody else is allowed to use it. A trademark won’t protect, say, the contents of the can of coke, but it does protect the elements that uniquely identify it as coke.
Technipages Explains Trademark
While the more commonly known form of intellectual property protection – patents and copyrights – will protect a physical item, formula, product or the like, a trademark covers only very limited visual elements, texts, logos and the like. Also unlike patents and copyright, trademarks are granted in perpetuity – that is to say, forever. A patent will expire after a set amount of time (though it can be extended for a limited time), a trademark will not.
The only way they expire is if they are no longer in continued use – for example if Coca Cola ceased trading and destroyed its remaining stock. In the US, a firm that registers a trademark with a national office can very easily prevent their competitors from copying or emulating whatever the trademark covers. The rules on what can and can’t be trademarked are quite strict and not easily met – they also can’t cover something too commonplace, such as an individual word like ‘computer’, unless it is combined with a specific font, and then only in that font. This is called a wordmark.
Trademarks are also industry-specific. Apple is a common word, yet the company has it trademarked when it comes to computers, for example, as well as similar tech devices – yet Ikea would still be allowed to sell a chair or table named Apple if they so chose.
Common Uses of Trademark
- Trademarks help protect titles, names and logos from being copied or too closely imitated, which can cost their owners a lot of money.
- The use of trademarks makes it easier for a company to pursue legal action in case of someone copying them.
- Not everything can be trademarked – common words, for example, can only be trademarked in very specific cases.
Common Misuses of Trademark
- A trademark is the same as copyright – it protects something someone has written from being copied.