Trademark protects a word(s) or phrase (and accompanying graphic image) that are associated with and identify a particular business, group or entity. These are things that are used in branding and marketing. Like copyright, there are some protections as soon as you use your trademark in commerce. But filing both in your state and with the US Trademark Office offers stronger protections because it provides notice of your ownership.
Trademark protections are different than copyright protections and the image used in a trademark can also be copyrighted. An example of trademark is the stylized words “Coca-Cola® ” that appear on the soda can. You will see either the TM or ® symbol next to most trademarks.
You own your trademark and can prevent others from using it, or license it out for a fee. One catch with trademarks, however, is that if you fail to police the use of your trademark, you can lose it. That is, if others are using your mark without your permission, and you don’t stop them, you can lose mark.
You are always allowed to use the TM symbol next to your mark to identify it as your trademark. However, you can only use the ® symbol if you’ve registered the mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. PLEASE CONSULT AN ATTORNEY.