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 Frequently Asked Questions
Basic Concepts
What is a trademark?

A trademark identifies a company’s products and services and distinguishes them from those of its competitors in the market. The name (the verbal element) is not the only component of a trademark—figurative elements such as logos, design, images, colors, and sounds also create an identity that can be protected by trademark registration.

With the registration, the owner (person or company) becomes the owner of the trademark. The registration is given for a particular country/territory, for certain products or services, and for a specific term. While the registration is in force, only the owner may use the trademark in the market where the trademark is registered.

 Some symbols to consider:

® Means the trademark is registered.

TM Some countries use this trademark symbol to show that the trademark has been filed at the trademark office and is still undergoing the registration process.

SM Some countries use this service mark symbol to show that the service mark has been filed at the trademark office and is still undergoing the registration process.

What is the difference between a trademark, patent and copyright ?

You can lay claim to your work in many ways. Trademarks, patents, and copyrights offer protection to intellectual property owners. A trademark helps people find your goods and services. When recognized as a registered mark, it protects your right to exclusively use the image, logo, phrases, or words to distinguish your goods or services from others in the market.

patent safeguards ideas and inventions. It gives a creator or inventor exclusive rights that prevent other people from making, using, or profiting in any way from an invention or creative innovation without the consent of the inventor.

You cannot patent an idea alone (otherwise we’d all be doing it). You must materialize your concept into a tangible invention, innovative product, device, or process that offers new solutions to an existing problem.

Copyright protects all types of original published, performed, and printed creative works of art, literature, and music. It prevents people from using, reproducing, or distributing copyrighted works without the permission of the artist, author, composer, etc. Types of work covered by copyright protection include:

  1. a) artwork (2 or 3 dimensional),
  2. b) photographs, graphic drawings, and designs as well as other forms of creativity;
  3. c) songs, music, and sound recordings of all kinds;
  4. d) books, manuscripts, publications, and another written work; and
  5. e) plays, movies, shows, and other performance arts.


Trademarks, patents, and copyrights are all examples of ways you can protect your intellectual property. Your rights to control and benefit from your efforts are increasingly important in our global economy. Registering a formal claim to your property is a critical step in protecting what you own.

What is the difference between TM, SM, ® and other symbols?

The symbol of a circled letter R after a trademark name or graphic image means that the preceding trademark has been registered. Various typographic symbols indicate copyrights and patents. The presence or absence of a symbol does not change the validity of the registration, but the best practice is to use circle‑R or circle‑C for copyrights every time you mention your intellectual property in print. These symbols give legal grounds for claiming damages in trademark litigation. The following is a list of some typical marks you can use on a web page, in written content, or even in a marketing letter.

  • TM: The TM or trademark symbol indicates an unregistered trademark for one of 34 different classes of products. Owners use this symbol to claim the preceding name or logo as the Trademark of their product.
  • SM: The SM or service mark symbol is similar to the TM symbol except it indicates a claim to a mark for a service (one of 11 classes of service) rather than a tangible product.
  • ®: Use the ® symbol once you’ve registered your trademark or service mark. It shows that the country authority has approved the registration.
  • ©: Use the © symbol to indicate copyrighted material. The copyright notice should appear on the material as Copyright © followed by the date the work was created, the copyright owner’s name, a period, and finally “All Rights Reserved.” Like this: Copyright © 2021, John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Use it whether the copyright has been registered or not.
  • Patent Pending: The phrase Patent Pending shows that you filed a patent application but cannot guarantee the application's approval.
What are trademark classes?

Trademark Offices around the world use classes to divide commercial products and services into defined categories.  When you apply for your trademark to protect your brand, you must define the class or classes that you believe best describe your business activity. 

Countries around the world have standardized 45 classes (34 for products and 11 for services) for international use under the Nice International Classification.

These classes group all known products and services. If applicable, you can register the same trademark in more than one class; for example, you may register the trademark KING for computers in class 23 and register the same trademark in class 24 for cosmetics. 

Trademark protection only extends to commercial use within your specified classes.  It is, therefore, possible for two entities conducting business in different classes to use identical or similar trademarks and for each entity to enjoy full trademark protection in their respective classes. If you feel that protection should extend to include more than one class, you can choose multiple classes under which to conduct business.

You can search for your trademark class with this Trademark Class Search tool.

General Questions
Why does a trademark matter to me and my business?

The similarity between trademarks confuses the marketplace and creates an opportunity for counterfeiters to steal your profits, use your brand awareness, and damage your reputation. Similar marks composed of words that sound, appear, or have the same meaning across different languages are worth consideration when choosing your personal or business mark.

A well-searched, correctly registered trademark helps confirm in the minds of consumers and through the eyes of the courts and governing bodies around the world that your mark identifies you as the source of the product or service.

The choice of a trademark for a business needs careful thought and planning. Subtle factors can add to the uniqueness of your mark. Consider the strength or weakness of your trademark design in differentiating you from the competition in your niche marketplace in thwarting potential counterfeiting. Is your mark memorable? Will your trademark attract attention especially online through its clarity, style, and uniqueness? Will the public remember it over time? If you move into foreign markets, will your choice of design translate well and not offend people in other countries with other cultures? 

The United States Patent Office reminds people that they can only register a person's claim to goods, services, and intellectual property. Property owners have ultimate responsibility for enforcing their rights. Proper registration of a trademark is a fundamental step in protecting your claims.

Why should I invest in a trademark?

By registering a mark, you can become its exclusive owner. Registration uniquely distinguishes your mark from competing marks in the same sector so that your clients can differentiate your products or services. This allows consumers that are satisfied with the given product and/or service to be able to buy or use that product and/or service. All the major companies and corporations register their trademarks as can we all see from the circle-R symbol that hovers beside their distinctive logos and names.

Registration also provides legal protection, preventing third parties from copying or imitating your mark, cashing in on your reputation, and damaging your prestige. And if they try, you can take them to court and sue them for the damages.

Investing in a trademark will provide protection through the local trademark office of the respective country and will also result in a greater connection with your clients and an increase in the value of your company as the registration will become a company asset.

When did people start using trademarks?

The concept of marking one's work has been a standard practice for centuries. Items from swords forged by medieval blacksmiths to manufactured goods like pre-cooked meats and bottled beer on the shelves in supermarket aisles all bearing their respective names and logos are physical examples. Services, on the other hand—based on an invention, a unique idea, or a process—are intangible and considered intellectual property.

Ordinary people and legal entities, like corporations, mark what they produce with something distinctive and memorable.  A trademark can be a single letter, a color, a picture, or a word combination. We see unique phrases, logos, symbols, and images around us wherever we look. These special marks decorate the packaged food we eat, the tools we use, and the corporate ownership of buildings we visit every day.

Since marks exist all around us, you will save money and time conducting a Comprehensive Study before you attempt to register a trademark. You want to secure the right to use your graphic representation as a trademark without infringing on anyone else's pre-existing mark. Once you can confirm your mark is unique, we recommend you register it for your exclusive use. Failure to perform an adequate search before you register a mark could result in a rejected application, future trademark litigation, and jurisdictional disputes over claims of ownership.

How can I trademark a name?

A trademark is a way of identifying the source of any good or service in the market.  It can be a single word, a phrase, logo, symbol, image, design, or any combination thereof.  Ideally, you want to register your trademark in every country in which you currently conduct business or plan to do business. The process of registering your trademark varies depending on the country in which you are selling products and services.   In many territories, you have the option to register a trademark strictly in that country or you can file a registration that covers several territories at once.   There are multiple international agreements in place which govern how trademarks and other intellectual properties are protected from country to country.   

A single registration can be secured to cover multiple jurisdictions specified by the applicant using what is called the “Madrid system for the international registration of marks.” Using this template, other treaties have been developed to facilitate systematized processes for registering and protecting intellectual property in multiple countries at once. For instance, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization allows members of English-speaking African nations to file a single registration for trademark protection in multiple member countries.  

Within the European Union, mark owners can apply to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to receive a trademark of the European Union (EUTM), which protects trademarks and service marks in EU member countries. However, it is important to note that this application is a unitary right and an objection against it in any of the member states, nullifies the whole application.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is responsible for granting trademarks to mark owners within the United States. U.S. applicants conducting business within the United States and who wish to register their mark can do so through the Trademark Operation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Generally, an applicant will secure an intellectual property attorney to conduct a thorough search of the trademark records to ensure the proposed mark has not already been registered.  Once the search is complete, a trademark registration can be submitted for review.  The process of having your mark registered as a trademark can take several months to finalize.

Can I register my domain name as a trademark?

Internet domain names often are the same as business names. The online retailer, Amazon, uses the domain. Its corporate name is Inc. We recommend you register your domain name as a trademark to protect your brand.  A domain name is part of the reference system used to find resources on the Internet. The domain name stands for a unique sequence of numbers used by computer networks. It is like using words to help people remember your phone number.

You register a domain name much like applying for a business name at the state level. If you pay your annual fees, you can use your domain name. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is one of several nonprofit, international authorizing organizations responsible for coordinating and supporting Internet domain names.  

 If you register your domain name as a trademark, you not only protect the name of your domain but may also avoid having other individuals and businesses secure domain names that are like your registered trademark. You can register your trademark in the country where you register your domain to protect it in specific markets. For example, you want to register your trademark for in France or in China. 

What are applications with a Claim of Priority?

The claim or right of priority (also called the Convention priority) is a part of the Paris Convention binding member nations of its Paris Union to a common agreement over the handling of international trademarks. This claim guarantees that if you file an application with Trademark Offices in a member nation within six months of a first filing, the date recorded will be the same day as the initial application. The applicant thus has a priority claim to the timely follow-up registration of their mark across any country in the Union.

What is a class search?

To help in the administration of marks Most countries in the world have adopted the Nice Classification (International Classification of Nice) which groups all products and services into 45 classes: 34 for products and 11 for services.

For example, assume you want to register 'RackTacket Remote Rockets' in the trademark classes for toys, rockets, and rocket launchers. The names that sound like 'RackTacket Remote Rockets' may still be available in a different trademark category for, say, pharmaceuticals or leather goods. You have claimed toys and rockets rather than the pharmaceutical or leather goods categories.

We can perform a Comprehensive Trademark Study that will review your targeted trademark class and search for the availability of an unencumbered mark. 


Are there any trademark registrations that cover more than one country?
Can I sub-license a registered trademark?

Yes, you can sub-license a registered trademark like most other forms of property unless the terms of your mark or jurisdictional laws recognizing the trademark forbid the practice. Any licensing agreements are binding on those who succeed a grantor's interest. The license can be either general or limited under the laws of the primary trademark authority.

What is the US Patent and Trademark Office? Other local Trademark Offices?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) functions as a for-profit agency under the US Department of Commerce working on revenue collected through user fees. It is required under Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution to promote scientific inquiry and secure exclusive rights of ownership to authors and inventors (patents) as well as manage commercial aspects of property rights (trademarks).

The agency, after examination and upon approval, adds a trademark or service mark to either the Principal or Supplemental Register depending on the distinctiveness of the mark. It works to support interstate and international trade working in cooperation with US state-level trademark authorities.

Who administers trademark registration?

Trademarks are subject primarily to local Trademark Offices but, with the increasing globalization of trade, follow more encompassing international agreements and bilateral treaties.

We recommend you complete a formal application process to register your trademark in your country before you engage in any commercial activity. Registration of a trademark not only formalizes your property rights and protects you in trademark litigation, but helps you seek registration of your mark in foreign jurisdictions.

Seek professional advice especially if your trademark and your business extend beyond your government's legal authority. The practice of international trademark law is complicated and always changing. Requirements and the application process may differ across countries.

What are some commonly used abbreviations used when discussing trademarks?

USPTO - United States Patent and Trademark Office

TESS - USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System

EUIPO- European Union Intellectual Property Office

EUTM - European Union Trade Mark, formerly called Community Trademark (CTM)

WIPO - World Intellectual Property Organization.

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