What is a Trademark?
A TRADEMARK is either a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Throughout this booklet the terms “trademark” and “mark” are used to refer to both trademarks and service marks whether they are word marks or other types of marks. Normally, a mark for goods appears on the product or on its packaging, while a service mark appears in advertising for the services.
A trademark is different from a copyright or a patent. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention.
Searches for Conflicting Marks
An applicant is not required to conduct a search for conflicting marks prior to applying with the PTO. However, some people find it useful. In evaluating an application, an examining attorney conducts a search and notifies the applicant if a conflicting mark is found. The application fee, which covers processing and search costs, will not be refunded even if a conflict is found and the mark cannot be registered. To determine whether there is a conflict between two marks, the PTO determines whether there would be likelihood of confusion, that is, whether relevant consumers would be likely to associate the goods or services of one party with those of the other party as a result of the use of the marks at issue by both parties. The principal factors to be considered in reaching this decision are the similarity of the marks and the commercial relationship between the goods and services identified by the marks. To find a conflict, the marks need not be identical, and the goods and services do not have to be the same. The PTO does not conduct searches for the public to determine if a conflicting mark is registered, or is the subject of a pending application, except as noted above when acting on an application.
The federal registration of trademarks is governed by the Trademark Act of 1946, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.; the Trademark Rules, 37 C.F.R. Part 2; and the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (2d ed. 1993).
Use of the “TM,” “SM” and “r” Symbols
Anyone who claims rights in a mark may use the TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) designation with the mark to alert the public to the claim. It is not necessary to have a registration, or even a pending application, to use these designations. The claim may or may not be valid. The registration symbol, r, may only be used when the mark is registered in the PTO. It is improper to use this symbol at any point before the registration issues. Please omit all symbols from the mark in the drawing you submit with your application; the symbols are not considered part of the mark.
*This information is reprinted from USPTO’s Trademark Handbook.