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Trademark Glossary and Resources

A trademark is a type of intellectual property protection that recognizes a symbol, word, or design to identify a product from a particular source. The use of trademarks has been around for centuries, since Parliament under King Henry III passed legislation that required bakers to use distinctive marks on the bread they sold, but the first modern laws on the subject came about in France in the late 19th century. They are used to identify a particular brand owner for specific goods and services, and owners can pursue legal action against those who infringe on their trademarks or grant other people licenses to produce work using their trademark in spheres they aren't proficient in.

Affirmative Defense: A legal defense in trademark law that removes liability for trademark infringement, such as parody, fair use, and improper actions by the plaintiff connected to the case

Appear: To be in court during litigation either as an attorney or party

Answer: A written response to the complaint in a civil case that may also present grounds for a defense

Assignee: A party who was transferred something (e.g., a trademark)

Assignment: A document used to transfer ownership of something

Cease and Desist Letter: A letter or email that asserts the legal right to a specific trademark, patent, or copyright and demands that the receiving party halt activities related to infringement on intellectual property

Common Law: Law based on the outcomes of previous court cases instead of statutes

Complaint: A statement by the plaintiff given to the court that describes the allegations against the defendant

Copyright: Intellectual property that is designed to protect original works such as writing, music, and art that have a tangible form

Counterclaim: A claim by a defendant against a plaintiff made to reduce the initial claims or bring up new claims against the plaintiff

Damages: The sum the defendant might have to pay if the court case is won. Damages can be used to compensate the plaintiff for losses or as punishment to deter potential future misconduct.

Declaratory Judgment: A judge's ruling concerning the current legal issue

Default Judgment: A ruling against a defendant who fails to respond to the complaint or appear in court

Defendant: The party in court against whom the complaint is brought.

Dilution: A claim brought by the owner of a famous trademark when a similar mark is created that diminishes the value of the original in some way, shape, or form

Ex Parte: "With respect to the interests of one side only." An ex parte proceeding is brought to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to examine a party's own trademark application.

Infringement: The interference with or misappropriation of somebody else's intellectual property rights

Injunction: A court order to prohibit a party from taking certain actions

Intellectual Property: Creative works, inventions, or distinctive indicators of a product or business that may be protected by the law through patents, trademarks, or copyrights

Inter Partes: Proceedings in front of the USPTO between two or more parties aside from the USPTO

IP: Intellectual property

License: Permission for another party who does not hold a trademark to use a certain property in their advertisements or products in a way that would normally be unlawful

Licensee: The party who obtained a license

Licensor: The party that granted a license to a licensee

Litigation: A lawsuit

Mediation: An informal way to settle disputes in which a neutral third party (known as a mediator) helps two parties reach an agreement

PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records, a database operated by the federal courts to give the public access to electronic records of their proceedings

Patent: A property right granted by the U.S. government to an inventor to keep others from using or selling their invention without permission

Plaintiff: The party who files a lawsuit that asserts wrongdoing

Principal Register: The USPTO's trademark register

PTRC: The Patent and Trademark Resource Center, a library chosen to house copies of patent and trademark materials so that the public can access them

Service of Process: The act of presenting a complaint or summons to the defendant

Service Mark: A design, phrase, symbol, and/or word used to identify and distinguish one service from another

Settlement: A binding agreement between two parties to avoid litigation or resolve a lawsuit before a judge or jury issues a verdict

Summons: A document filed by a plaintiff with the court to serve a defendant in order to give them notice of the lawsuit so they can respond within the allotted period of time

Trademark: A design, symbol, word, phrase, or combination of these elements to identify and distinguish one party's merchandise from another

Trademark Infringement: The use of a trademark without authorization in a way that could cause confusion about the source of goods or services

USPTO: The United States Patent and Trademark Office, the agency in charge of granting and registering patents and trademarks

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