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Intellectual Property Research: Trademark


International Trademark Association's definition:

"A trademark is any word, name, symbol or device (or any combination thereof) that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Similarly, a service mark is any word, name, symbol or device (or any combination thereof) that identifies and distinguishes the services of one party from those of others. . . . A trademark or service mark can be a word, logo, slogan, package design or other source indicator (or a combination thereof), or any other cognizable thing that serves to indicate a particular source, good or service. . . . Trademarks, often known and used as brand names, are a part of everyday life. The main purpose of a trademark is to enable the public to recognize the goods or services as originating in a particular company or being a particular product or service. Trademarks are protected by law in order to serve this source-indicating function and prevent the public from being confused about the source of the goods or services. By doing this, a trademark also helps to assure that the trademark owner, and not an imitative competitor, will reap the rewards associated with a desirable product." 

Cornell LII's Wex, a free legal dictionary and legal encyclopedia, provides a quick overview of trademark law, including links to statutes, cases, treaties, and key internet sources.

For a more thorough overview of various aspects of U.S. trademark law, see the resources provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on its website:

A trademark can be a word, symbol, phrase, or another type of distinguishing mark. The mark must be sufficiently distinctive (i.e., capable of identifying the source of a particular product).

There are 4 levels of distinctiveness:

Distinctiveness Meaning Level of Protection
Arbitrary or fanciful no logical relationship to the underlying product Strong Protection
Suggestive evokes or suggests a characteristic of the underlying product Strong Protection
Descriptive directly describes the underlying product Possible Protection
Generic describes the general product category No Protection


Grounds for USPTO to refuse a trademark include:

  1. Confusingly similar to an existing mark
  2. Merely descriptive
  3. Deceptively misdescriptive
  4. Primarily merely a surname

For more information, see USPTO's "Grounds for Refusal of a Mark."

  • Legal presumption of exclusive right to use mark nationwide on or in connection with goods or services identified in the registration.

  • Legal presumption of ownership.

  • Public notice of ownership.

  • Mark is recorded with USPTO.

  • Ability to record with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

  • Right to sue in federal court.

  • Use as basis for foreign registration.

  • Use federal trademark registration symbol—®.

Treatises, Practice Guides, and Forms

Trademark Statutes & Regulations


Title 15, Chapter 22 of the United States Code deals with trademark law.

Trademark Act of 1946, as amended


Title 37, Parts 2, 3, 6, 7, and 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations deal with trademarks.

Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP)  The TMEP is published to provide trademark examining attorneys in the USPTO, trademark applicants, and attorneys and representatives for trademark applicants with a reference work on the practices and procedures relative to prosecution of applications to register marks in the USPTO. The Manual contains guidelines for Examining Attorneys and materials in the nature of information and interpretation, and outlines the procedures which Examining Attorneys are required or authorized to follow in the examination of trademark applications.


Study Aids

CALI Lessons

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