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The trademark, the service mark, and what they do for companies

In the past few weeks, we have talked about patents and copyrights. These are two forms of protection for individuals and companies that are looking to secure their intellectual property. But there is a third form of protection that we haven't covered yet, and today we are going to rectify that. Today, we're going to talk about trademarks: what they do, how they work, and why they are important.

Let's begin by explaining what a trademark is. A trademark is a word, symbol or phrase (or a collection of any or all of these things) that "distinguishes the source of the goods." In other words, the word, symbol or phrase (or collection of these) provides an iconic and recognizable brand. For example, people instantly know Nike goods compared to Adidas goods.

Now, there is a more specific type of mark that companies can utilize that is similar to a trademark, but is specific to a service provided by the company. It is called a service mark. An example of a service mark would be if Nike provided a unique customer service option. On the other hand, Nike could not have a service mark for a specific shoe or garment that they created.

Having these protections under a company's belt is important because it prevents competitors from using similar (or even the same) phrases, logos, slogans and images that your company uses (and, thus, compromises your company's strategy and brand by confusing the consumer base). Invoking the protections of trademarks can save a company a lot of money while preserving their overall identity.

Source: FindLaw, "Types of Trademarks," Accessed Oct. 20, 2015

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