Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

Business Trademarks: What Your Small Business Needs to Know

May 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 127

This article will look at what a business trademark is (and what it isn't), how to make sure it's available for use, and how to register your logo for protection.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, image, or other sign or signifier that connects a product or service to its source. (For services, the term "service mark" is sometimes alternately used.) It can be either registered or unregistered.

For example, the Pepsi logo is commonly recognized in conjunction with the company; if you saw the logo on the side of a soft drink or other product, you would know without a doubt that Pepsi-Cola is responsible for that product.

How can you be so sure? Federal law states that no other company would be able to use the logo on their own product, since this would cause confusion in the eyes of the public.

(Fun fact: Trade and service marks have ancient origins! Blacksmiths, weavers, and other producers of high-quality merchandise used to place a unique symbol on their work so their customers could be assured they weren't purchasing a cheap knock-off a premium prices.)

How does a trade or service mark differ from a copyright?

While both types of intellectual property protection can cover a logo, the scope of this protection varies slightly.

Trade or service marks protect the connection between the logo and the company, the product and the source.

Copyrights protect the unauthorized use, display, or reproduction of an image, regardless of its connection with a product, service, company, or similar.

(Fun fact: Not all trademarks are eligible for copyright protection. For example, "names and short phrases" cannot be copyrighted, so business names and slogans could only be trademarks. And a logo made primarily out of text typically cannot be copyright protected as an image; to be eligible, there would need to be a significant amount of original authorship outside the use of letters.)

How do I know if my logo is already in use?

First, it must be said that it is exceedingly difficult to track down all potential matches, simply because by its very definition there is no central database in which all unregistered trademarks are recorded (because they're unregistered). However, there are a few places that you can look to greatly reduce your chances of infringement:

Internet Search

Just by running Google and other search engine searches of the trademark in question, as well as any potential alternate spellings, you will narrow down a great deal of your search, since in today's world most businesses have some sort of an online presence. (And while you're at it, it's not a bad idea to see if your trade or service mark is available as a domain name; just type "trademark".com,, and into your browser and see what comes up!)


Calling itself "an industrial search engine, this is a database maintained by Thomas Industrial NetworkSM, a leader in industry and product information. This is one of the largest sources of unregistered trade and service mark information in the country.

Network Solutions

This database is like ThomasNet, but for domain names. If a person or company has reserved a domain name, you'll be able to find out -- and you can presume that a domain name for a website used commercially is a business trade and service mark.

Business Records

Unregistered trade and service marks are going to be more of a concern if they're in use in your industry and in your geographical area, so it isn't a bad idea to check your Secretary of State's database of registered businesses. Depending on your state, your County Clerk may also hold its own separate registry of unincorporated businesses.

How do I register my trade or service mark?

It's probably clear by now that its much less problematic to register your business trade or service mark, creating an official record of its commercial use.

The US Patent and Trademark Office is the government entity in charge of these registrations (and, unsurprisingly, patents as well). However, it is generally a good idea to go through an attorney familiar with intellectual property and commercial law, as the application process can take up to two years and is very complex. There are also many excellent third-party companies that can apply with the USPTO on your behalf.

For further reading, the USPTO provides a wealth of great information on the topic.

Sarah Kolb,

Since 2000, Click Industries has helped thousands of small business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and writers start new businesses, manage their creative works, and protect business trademarks.

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

Rate this Article

Article Tags:

Business Trademark


Small Business


Unregistered Trademark




Service Marks

Thus, you can apply for the negligence compensation under such circumstances in order to recover your loss, Negligence Claims, Negligence compensation Involvedness of Negligence Claims. The court

By: Simon Liva l Legal > Personal Injury l December 13, 2012 lViews: 291

If a lawyer is not able to devote enough time to your case then your defense is likely to suffer. Moreover specialization in one stream or other of defense is important so that the attorney can

By: Simon Liva l Legal > Criminal Law l December 12, 2012 lViews: 428

Filing a business bankruptcy can be a complex and critical task, but you have several options. You can consult your bankruptcy attorney to know which among those options is right for you.This is a

By: Harvard McIntosh l Legal > Corporations LLC l December 11, 2012 lViews: 234

You can always check for the treatments that are covered. This is because there are some policies which do not give you claims if you meet any kind of head injury.You can always check for the

By: Simon Liva l Legal > Personal Injury l November 05, 2012 lViews: 240

In Colorado, you have many Personal Injury Lawyers to choose from. When you choose the Law Offices of Andrew C. Bubb you instantly put years of experience and legal know how in your corner. Attorney

By: Dilshad l Legal > Personal Injury l October 25, 2012 lViews: 388

If you have been charged with a crime, speak with Boulder criminal defense attorney Steven Louth immediately to protect your rights. Steven Louth is a criminal defense attorney and criminal trial

By: Dilshad l Legal > Personal Injury l October 18, 2012 lViews: 243

A trademark gives a person, business, company or any legal entity the power to look unique from others. A trademark is a sign, phrase or symbol that a company can use to indicate that the products

By: Patrick A Thompsonl Legal > Trademarksl June 04, 2012 lViews: 132

For those unfamiliar with the term, a franchisor is a person (or company) who allows an individual to run a location of their business for a fee. This often occurs with fast food outlets (think

By: John Aaric Tylerl Legal > Trademarksl May 29, 2012 lViews: 141

Just like a patent, a trademark is a protection provided by the Patent and Trademark Attorney. Nevertheless, patent and trademark are not one and the same. A patent is usually for a new invention

By: Vikram A Khannal Legal > Trademarksl May 11, 2012 lViews: 172

For any business owner serious about building a definable brand presence in the market, trademarking is an absolute necessity. The scope for what can actually be trademarked is fairly wide; words,

By: Rachel K Dawsonl Legal > Trademarksl May 09, 2012 lViews: 131

Due to the different trademark systems between Hong Kong and mainland China, a successfully registered trademark in Hong Kong may not gain the same protection by law in mainland China. So the

By: Allen Henry Leel Legal > Trademarksl May 04, 2012 lViews: 126

A trademark is a symbol, sign, or other signifier used to uniquely identify a service or product in connection with a certain brand, company, person, or other legal organization. In this article,

By: Sarah Kolbl Legal > Trademarksl May 01, 2012 lViews: 144

A cease and desist letter is a low-cost alternative to a time-consuming and potentially costly lawsuit, if someone is using your copyrighted materials without permission. Let's look at how to write a

By: Sarah Kolbl Legal > Copyrightl June 12, 2012 lViews: 177

Copyright registration is voluntary -- you don't NEED to register in order to be protected by copyright law -- but there are very good reasons to officially register with the US Copyright Office.

By: Sarah Kolbl Legal > Copyrightl May 31, 2012 lViews: 172

A trademark is a symbol, sign, or other signifier used to uniquely identify a service or product in connection with a certain brand, company, person, or other legal organization. In this article,

By: Sarah Kolbl Legal > Trademarksl May 01, 2012 lViews: 143

Copyright protection is afforded to books, movies, music, photographs, and a wide variety of other creative expressions of an idea -- but did you know that vessel hull designs and architectural works

By: Sarah Kolbl Legal > Copyrightl March 20, 2012 lViews: 172

The decision to close or sell your business, as a small business owner, can be a painful one; you've poured your heart and soul into it, made it grow, and kept it running. But there are times when

By: Sarah Kolbl Business > Small Businessl February 28, 2012 lViews: 212

When quoting song titles or lyrics, it's not always clear when you're required to ask permission from the original author. This article takes a closer look at song titles and lyrics and how they

By: Sarah Kolbl Legal > Copyrightl January 10, 2012 lViews: 151

Discuss this Article

comments powered by Disqus