Play-Doh recently received approval for its trademark on the Play-Doh scent, a distinctive smell that brings back childhood memories for many of us. If any competitors produce a modeling clay that smells too much like Play-Doh, they could be putting themselves at risk for a lawsuit. That scent now has the full protection of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
If your business has an unprotected brand, including its scent, you are putting your unique ideas at risk. Without proper protection, other individuals or businesses will be free to use the same names, logos, or ideas that were once unique to you. While it is important to protect your intellectual property, it is equally important to understand the different types of intellectual property and how your business can take advantage of them. Below we will address five misconceptions regarding trademark registration, so you can be sure to understand the protection you need.
Myth #1: Trademarks will only protect my business if we have a logo.
Answer: As noted above, trademarks can protect scents. They can also be registered for your business name, slogan, logo, a sound, or even a color! UPS has a trademark on brown, Target has a trademark on red, and Tiffany & Co. has a trademark on Tiffany blue.
Myth #2: There is no difference between a trademark, patent, or copyright.
Answer: A trademark can be a word, phrase, slogan, symbol, design, or any combination of these forms. A trademark is used to identify the source of a product and to distinguish that product from others. Trademarks are most relevant for brand differentiation. A patent protects an original product, idea, or invention. If you patent your invention, competitors will not be allowed to produce the same product for a certain time period, generally around twenty years. A copyright protects an original work, whether that is literature, musical, dramatic, or even computer software and architecture.
Myth #3: My trademark registration offers global protection.
Answer: If your trademark is registered with the USPTO, your mark will only be protected in the United States. For global protection, you will need to register with international offices. An international corporate lawyer can guide you through this process.
Myth #4: I can choose between using the ™ and ® symbols.
Answer: These two symbols have different meanings. It is advised to use the tm symbol while you are registering for your federal trademark. The R symbol, however, can only be used once the USPTO has successfully registered your trademark.
Myth #5: I can hire someone who is not an attorney to submit my trademark application.
Answer: Only trademark attorneys, with a valid license to practice law in the U.S., are permitted to represent you during your application process. An experienced trademark attorney can guide you through the process, sign forms for you, and increase the likelihood of a successful application.
Protecting your intellectual property can distinguish and protect your ideas, work, or slogans. Ensure that your application meets all legal requirements. Contact our office today for a complimentary consultation to discuss your intellectual property needs.
1. Remember how Play-Doh smells? U.S. trademark officials get it. By Rachel Siegel. 5/24/2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/05/24/remember-how-play-doh-smells-u-s-trademark-officials-get-it/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.dc3d2f9a7ebc (Accessed 6/6/2018).
2. Trademark basics. https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics (Accessed 6/6/2018).
3. General information concerning patents. October 2015. https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-information-concerning-patents#heading-2 (Accessed 6/6/2018).
4. Copyright in general. https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html (Accessed 6/6/2018).
5. The ten myths of trademarks, by Helen Bruno. 1/4/2004. http://www.inta.org/INTABulletin/Pages/TheTenMythsofTrademarks.aspx (Accessed 6/6/2018).
6. 10 colors that might get you sued, by Aleksi Tzatzev. 9/29/2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/colors-that-are-trademarked-2012-9#red-3 (Accessed 6/6/2018).