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Trademarks   Tags: intellectual_property, trade_names, trademarks  

A guide to finding information on trademarks such as fees, forms, terms and searching techniques for both U.S. and International trademarks.
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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What is a Trademark and how does it differ from a service mark, trade name, and brand name?

Trademarks are part of the legal area called "Intellectual Property".  Terms used in intellectual property are also commonly used in business and in every day language, however, when used in the intellectual property sense, their meanings are more specific.  For intellectual property purposes:

  • A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of these that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. The mark appears on the product or its packaging.

  • A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product; a service mark appears in the advertising for the service.  In this Libguide, "trademark" will be used to denote both service marks as well as trademarks unless stated otherwise.

  • A trade name is the formal name of a business. A business may use all or part of its trade name as a mark on its products or services.  Although "trade name" and "trademark" are interchanged frequently in common language, for this Libguide "tradename" is only used to designate a business' name.

  • A brand name is the commercial name given by a business to its product.  The brand name may be the same as the trademark (mark on a product or service that identifies its source) or tradename (name of a business).  The term "brand name" often appears in business material but for this Libguide, the term "brand name" will not be used unless the product under discussion has a brand name that is different than the trademark.  

Agencies that govern trademark registrations around the world:

Agencies at both the federal and state levels are responsible for trademarks in the U.S.

Each country has its own laws on trademarks. See the following web site to find the Intellectual Property Offices of different countries.

The Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks provides a means for citizens of member countries to file one application for trademark protection in many countries; the U.S. is a member.  These international registrations are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

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