What is meant by Intellectual Property (IP)?
The intellectual property concept is similar to the one of real or tangible property, which involves houses, boats, cars or any other object you might own. The main difference between the two is that IP is intangible, it is an idea emanating from the mind that can be the source for a new service, a product or a book.
U.S. Copyright protects the following rights:
- Copyrights — Songs, photos, poems and any other original artistic creation or works of authorship fixed in a tangible form.
- Patents — Including novel inventions or improvements to an existing inventions (a machine, formula or process for making something).
- Trademarks — Identifiers used to communicate the source and quality of a product or service.
- Trade Secrets — Business or technical information considered confidential.
Trademarks can be colours (Lilac of Milka chocolate), sounds (20th Century Fox Fanfare), scents, words, names, symbols, slogans, tag lines, characters, designs, product configuration (Coca-Cola bottle) or trade dress. Among the main issues taking into consideration in registering and protecting a trademark are distinctiveness from other trademarks and secondary meaning.
Why are trademarks important?
On the market, trademarks are equal to reputation. They are used to associate, recognize and remember products and services of the same provider. Marketers are counting on trademarks to establish good will with the consumer and determine repeated purchase based mainly on the name or source of the products. Trademarks are also used to differentiate one manufacturer from the others and help merchants stand out from the crowd.
If trademarks are source identifiers, do I need to know the name of the manufacturer of the goods?
Not necessarily. Trademarks help you know that you are buying from the same source. Whether you are eating at McDonalds in Indiana or in Maine, it is the same provider and the same quality of service and product.
How can I tell if a word is a trademark?
If a word is followed by the ™ symbol or ® symbol then it is a trademark. Otherwise you can use meaning as a criterion since words used as trademarks in connection with a product or service, are not usually used with the exact meanings defined by the dictionary.
What is the difference between a trademark and a service mark (SM)?
The distinction between trademark and service mark is not very clear and trademark definition is usually used instead of service mark, which refers to sale or advertising of services (e.g., restaurant services, banking services, etc.).
What is the difference between a trademark and a trade name?
The trade name refers to the name of the company or business, while a trademark identifies the source of products and services. They are often used interchangeably as both a trademark and a trade name, depending on the context of use.