A trademark or trade mark is used by organizations as a distinctive sign of their identity, services, and products provided to consumers. It also differentiates one organization from other organizations and intellectual property as well. Generally, a trademark pertains to an industrial property.
IP or intellectual property is defined by the law as a legal entitlement attached to a particular type of ideas, information, and other intangibles. The owner of such legal entitlement can exercise several exclusive rights associated with the IP's subject matter. As the name suggests, IP contains subject matters that are products of the intellect or mind. The IP rights are also protected by the law similar to other types of property.
Originally, a trademark can contain elements such as word, name, logo, phrase, image, design, symbol, or combined elements. There are also wide varieties of trademarks which are not conventional and do not belong in the standard categories.
A trademark can refer informally to the distinguishing attributes of some individuals where they are popular with. Some examples include the distinctive ducktail haircut of Elvis Presley, the flamboyant jewelry and costumes of Liberace, the oversized sunglasses of Elton John, the mustache of Groucho Marx, and the breast size of Pamela Anderson and Dolly Parton.
The trademark's important function is to identify exclusively the origin or commercial source of the services or products. Thus it can also be called as "indicates source" or "badge of origin". Using trademarks in this manner is known as trademark use. Whoever owns the trademark can seek enforcement to protect the rights and interests from unauthorized users.
It is vital to note that the rights of a trademark are based generally on the use and registration where the mark is going to be utilized. Although in some cases, legal action can be done to prevent using the trademark in other services or products outside its range. However, it does not necessarily mean that the law also prevents the general public in using the trademark. A common phrase, word, or other designs is removed from public domains so that the trademark's owner can maintain exclusive rights of their services or products.
Terms including logo, brand, or mark are sometimes interchangeably used to refer to trademark. But, the terms branding and brands are appropriate to use in advertising and marketing concepts.
Using a trademark which is related to services can be called as service mark. This term is widely used in the U.S. Other specialized forms of trademark are defensive trademarks, collective trademarks, and certification marks. A genericized trademark is used popularly to describe a service or product without distinguishing it from the third parties. Whenever the trademark becomes synonymous and the owners can never enforce their propriety rights, then the mark becomes generic.
Any sign is capable of producing an important trademark as long as it qualifies on the trademark functions. The concept can even extend to non conventional signs which include shapes, smells, sounds, taste, moving images, and texture. However, using such trademarks can considerably vary from one jurisdiction to another. Sound marks and shape marks may not anymore be included in the future.
The "(tm)" symbol can be used if the claimed trademark rights are only related to the mark itself. This mark is not registered in the trademark office of the government in a certain jurisdiction or country. The symbol is an indication that a trademark is registered. The use of these symbols is not mandatory but it is not legal to utilize the (r) symbol for unregistered trademarks.
A trademark is considered by the law as type of property. Its proprietary rights can be established upon actual use in a certain market or registration in a particular trademark office. In most jurisdictions, the rights are established using one or both methods. In some jurisdiction, a trademark is not generally recognized especially those services or products associated with "use". China belongs in this category. The owners rights can be limited if they failed to hold a trademark registration in such country.
A trademark which is registered confers exclusive rights. Once the trademark rights are recognized in one jurisdiction, generally these rights became enforceable. Nevertheless, the system and laws associated with international trademarks also varies from one jurisdiction to another.