What is a trademark?

A trademark refers to any word, name, symbol or device, or any combination thereof, that is used to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from the goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. A trademark is a brand name or other brand-identifying device (such as the color pink used by Owens-Corning for its brand of fiberglass insulation, the Pillsbury doughboy, or NBC’s three-tone sound mark).  Marks that are used to identify or advertise services rather than goods are often referred to as “service marks.” Rights in a trademark are acquired and maintained only by use; however, registration may be sought before making use of the mark in commerce. 

The primary function of a trademark is to indicate the origin of goods or services. Trademarks also enable consumers to identify products and service-providers so that they can either look for them again or avoid them. In this way, a trademark represents the quality and uniformity of the goods bearing the mark. The goal of trademark law is to protect the source-identifying and quality-designating functions of trademarks.

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