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Trademarks, Service Marks, and Your Small Business

Posted on : September 3, 2018, By:  George Dillon
Trademarks, Service Marks, and Your Small Business

Trademarks and service marks are not just for big companies. For example, Donnie opened a small shop in Virginia Beach printing and selling novelty shirts and hats – Donnie’s Design Den. His logo and mascot became popular as his business grew. He started thinking about whether he needed to register his trademark.

What are trademarks and service marks?

Trademarks are the words or images that identify a company or product. Customers find the brands they want based on such identifying factors. In fact, they may become confused if two similar companies use the same colors, logos, fonts, or similar names. Examples of registered trademarks: McDonald’s golden arches, the Nike Swoosh, the name “Versace” and logo, mascots like the Geico Gecko or Cheeto’s Chester Cheetah. Even certain shades of colors can be trademarked if they are closely identified with a company. For example, the shade of brown used by UPS or Tiffany & Co.’s special shade of blue may be registered trademarks.

Service marks are similar to trademarks with one important difference: service marks identify a service, not a product. Examples of service marks include: United Airlines, TurboTax, and Edward Jones.

It’s important to remember that trademarks and service marks may be registered at the state and federal level. However, companies may only use the federal symbol ® for marks registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark office.

Also, a trademark registered in Virginia is only good within the borders of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A federally registered trademark is protected throughout the United States.

I run a small business in Virginia. Do I need to register my trademarks?

Business owners are not required to register trademarks and services marks, either on the state or federal level. However, registering may provide your business with protection from competitors who might use similar marks to draw away your customers. A business with a registered mark likely has more legal remedies against infringement than an unregistered mark.

Learn More About Trademarks.

Donnie’s Design Den became a registered trademark and service mark in Virginia since Donnie provided products and design services. Interest in his business grew, especially from competitors. However, he might be able to challenge anyone using a similar name, logo, and mascot because of the registered trademark and service mark. When Donnie opened a shop in North Carolina, he applied to the U. S. Patent and Trademark office to register on the federal level.

The attorneys at Dillon Law Group, PLC can help you with your business concerns. Please contact us at 757-962-4796 to set up an appointment or use the Contact Form on our website, https://www.dillonlawgrp.com/. We have offices in Virginia Beach and Newport News.

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