Johnson & Phung LLCFree Consultation

What is a Trademark?

By Staff

Johnson and Phung PLLC
Patent and Trademark attorneys
General patent and trademark Information

Topics Covered

A. What Are Patent Lawyers?
B. Things that may be trademarked
C. Things that may not be trademarked
D. How to obtain a Trademark
E. Different Trademark Symbols Explained

Trademarks are vital for protecting your brand and distinguishing the goods and services that you offer or sell from others in the market. Trademarks serve to identify your brand's name, logo, slogan, or design and provide exclusive rights to use the trademarks. While some level of protection is automatically granted through common law when you use your trademark in your business, it's limited to your immediate area and difficult to enforce.

A. Federal registration of your trademark

To expand your trademark protection, you can register your trademark at the state level for limited statewide protection or, for the most comprehensive protection, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Federal registration comes with several advantages:

1. Federal registration of your trademark creates a public record of trademark ownership.
2. Federal registration of your trademark prevents others from registering deceptively similar trademarks.
3. Federal registration of your trademark provides the right to file a lawsuit in federal court against trademark infringers.
4. Federal registration of your trademark simplifies the process of registering your trademark in other countries.
5. Federal registration of your trademark allows you to stop the importation of goods that infringe your mark.
6. Federal registration of your trademark grants you the right to use the registered trademark symbol, ®.

B. Things that may be trademarked

Trademarks can be used to protect a wide range of elements that identify and distinguish your brand from others. The following are common types of things that can be trademarked:

Words: Words are the most commonly trademarked item. Words include brand names, company names, and product names can be trademarked. For example, "Ford" for cars, "Dominos" for Pizzas.

Logos can be trademarked: Distinctive symbols, emblems, and other visual representations of your brand can be trademarked. For example, the NBC "Peacock" or the MGM “Lion”.

Slogans can be trademarked: Catchphrases or taglines associated with your brand can be trademarked, like Wendy’s "Where’s the Beef."

Product Packaging can be trademarked: Unique packaging or design elements can be trademarked, such as the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle can be trademarked.

Sounds can be trademarked: In some cases, unique sounds associated with your brand can be trademarked, like the MGM lion's roar can be trademarked.

Colors can be trademarked: Distinctive colors can be trademarked if they are used to identify your brand can be trademarked. For example, the specific “pink” color used by Owens Corning insulation.

Scents can be trademarked: Rarely, distinctive scents can also be trademarked if they are associated with your products.

Services can be trademarked: Not just products, but also services can be trademarked. This includes the names of services or service providers.

Internet Domain Names can be trademarked: Domain names associated with your brand can be trademarked.

Trade Dress can be trademarked: The overall look and feel of your product, including its design, color, and packaging can be trademarked.

C. Things that may not be trademarked

Keep in mind that not everything can be trademarked, and there are specific requirements and limitations. To be eligible for trademark protection, a mark should be distinctive, not generic, or merely descriptive. Additionally, it should be used in commerce and be capable of distinguishing your goods or services from those of others. Consulting with a trademark attorney or checking with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is essential to determine if your specific mark is eligible for trademark protection.

D. How to obtain a Trademark

Getting a trademark involves several steps, and the process can take time. Here's a breakdown of the general recommended steps to get a trademark:

Step 1: Identify Your Trademark

Research and choose a potential trademark. Search the USPTO database to check for similar words, designs, goods, or services already in use. Determine how you want your mark to be protected. Specify the exact goods and services your trademark will apply to and select the corresponding trademark class.

Step 2: Submit Your Application

Create a USPTO account and prepare and submit your trademark application online and pay the associated trademark application filing fee.

Step 3: Wait for assignment to a trademark examining attorney to review your trademark application.

The USPTO will review your trademark application for compliance with filing requirements.
Your trademark application will be assigned a serial number and sent to an examining attorney for review. If there are issues with your trademark application, you'll receive a letter requiring a response. You'll receive a letter of approval or denial of your trademark application.
If approved, your trademark application will be published in the "Official Gazette," and there's a 30-day period for potential opposition.

Step 4: Complete the Final Paperwork

Maintain your USPTO trademark registration for as long as you want to hold the mark.
Complete the required documents and periodically check the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) system to ensure your registration doesn't expire.
Please note that the entire process can take 12 to 24 months, so be prepared for a wait. It's essential to follow each step carefully to protect your trademark effectively.

To simplify the trademark application process, it is highly recommended that you hire a Trademark Attorney to assist you in the above steps.

E. Different Trademark Symbols Explained

Trademarks can be indicated by three different symbols, each with its specific use:

JOHNSON AND PHUNG ™: This symbol is the most commonly used trademark symbol and can be used by anyone, regardless of whether the trademark is registered. It indicates that you have claimed a name, logo, or slogan as your own.

JOHNSON AND PHUNG ®: The ® symbol is reserved for trademarks that have received official approval from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It stands for "registered trademark" and should only be used for trademarks that are officially registered.

JOHNSON AND PHUNG℠: The ℠ symbol is known as a "service mark" symbol and is used for services rather than physical products. It functions similarly to the ™ symbol and can be used without formal registration to indicate ownership of a service mark.
Using the appropriate symbol helps communicate the status of your trademark to others and reinforces your claim to the associated name, logo, or slogan.

*** Please note that the above information is only general information and should not be considered as legal advice. If you need specific legal advice regarding patent law or trademark law, feel free to reach out to the attorneys at Johnson and Phung for a free initial consultation at our “Contact Us” page at

Johnson and Phung PLLC
We are a Twin Cities patent law firm and Twin Cities trademark law firm that has been committed to helping clients with their Patent, Trademark, and Intellectual Property Law needs in Minneapolis, St. Paul, the Twin Cities metro area, Duluth, Mora, Rochester, Mankato, and all of greater Minnesota for over 40 years. All of our Minnesota patent attorneys and trademark attorneys are registered patent attorneys with each having over 20 years of experience."

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