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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How to Register a Trademark: FindLaw created this quick guide to understanding trademark eligibility, what to do if your application is rejected, and if you should work with an attorney.
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Trademarks and Service Marks FAQs: The Idaho secretary of state's office put together a list of frequently asked questions about trademarks and service marks here.
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Protecting Your Idea: The NYC Department of Small Business Services created this guide to help business owners make informed decisions on trademarks, patents, and service marks.
Trademark vs. Copyright: This detailed overview of trademarks and copyrights can help you determine which one you need for your work.