Trademarks

An overview.

Imagine if...

on one side of a street a new store just opened up with a trademarked logo. The owner registered his trademark. A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade to indicate the source of a good. These trademarks help distinguish one good from another.


Now, imagine a month later that a new store opened up across the street from the first business with a very similar looking logo. What do you notice? Does it seem fair to let the second business keep their logo? How do you think the owners of the first business felt when they saw their competition's logo? How would you feel if this happened to you?


This situation is considered a trademark infringement because the first business registered their trademark. In this situation, they could sue if the second business refused to change their logo. There are many reasons why one should always register their trademark.

Why get one?

If you don't register your business name or symbol and you discover another company with a trademark uses the same thing, you must change your name/symbol, which could make customers not recognize your business. Thus, losing customers.


With a registered trademark, only you have the rights to use the name/symbol. Nobody else is allowed to legally use it without permission.


Some state laws provide additional protection to infringement actions if the trademark violated is registered.


It is considered trademark infringement if you use a trademark which is already registered by another company. Always check to see if your name/symbol is already registered.


If your name/symbol is already registered, you must change it. Changing it requires you to reprint all of your signs, advertising pieces, business cards, etc. That's a lot of money and a lot of waste.


If sued for trademark infringement for not previously checking to see if the trademark is already registered, you can lose all your profits and be forced to pay for an attorney along with any damages or additional fees.

Trademark Infringement

What is it?

Trademark infringement is the violation of the exclusive rights to a registered trademark without permission from the trademark's owner. When the person causing the infringement uses a name, symbol or word identical or very similar to the trademarked subject, they can be sued.

Sprinkles Cupcakes

A business in Connecticut was named Pink Sprinkles. A popular chain in Southern California had a trademark on their name Sprinkles. Sprinkles filed a lawsuit against the small company, claiming they were committing trademark infringement. The small company didn't know there was a trademark on the name Sprinkles. They were forced to change its name to Pink Cupcake Shack. Sprinkles has worked hard to get their name out there. Their cupcakes have been featured on "The Today Show" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Some of their shops are located in major cities and they are planning to expand overseas. They sent a letter to a new company located in California named Sprinkles Pink Cupcake Couture demanding a name change the day after they opened. Businesses are serious about trademark infringements.

Starbucks vs. Legend of Mir

Starbucks filed a trademark infringement claim against one of the most popular Chinese online games. There is a castle within the game which is named ShaBaKe. In Chinese, Starbucks is XingBaKe. Starbucks argued that their name was registered back in 1996 and, since the castle was named in 2003, they said it was too close to their name and must be changed. The court ruled that no infringement had occurred because "Xing" and "Sha" don't sound similar.
You can change your trademark by registering it. The Coca-Cola Company has done this multiple times since its creation.

Coca-Cola over the years

2007

The design from 1969 returned with the word "CLASSIC" printed below.

Why is it important to know this about trademarks?

Lots of people start their own business, but before they open their doors, they must first check to make sure their ideas aren't already trademarked. If they don't check before they start their business, they could lose it. It's important to know how to avoid trademark infringements when creating a business.