What Is a Trademark?


Our definition: A piece of distinct content that represents a brand

Official definition: "Distinctive design, graphics, logo, symbols, words, or any combination thereof that uniquely identifies a firm and/or its goods or services, guarantees the item's genuineness, and gives it owner the legal rights to prevent the trademark's unauthorized use” (BusinessDictionary.com). The symbol (™) means “trademark” and (®) means “registered trademark".

Origins: Trademarks may go back as far as the days of the Roman Empire, when blacksmiths made trademarked swords. The first trademark legislation, in 1266, was aimed at bakers in England.

A trademark is not:

  • Necessarily registered. While federally registered trademarks (®) have more legal protections than “common law” trademarks (™), one business can sue another for infringing on an in-use trademark, even if that trademark has not been registered.

  • Limited to names and logos. Jingles, specific color combinations, and ad concepts can all be trademarks.

  • A brand. A brand is the whole identity of a business or product. This identity is represented by trademarks like names, logos, and jingles, but can’t be reduced to any trademark or combination of trademarks.