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What is a Trademark? And How Do You Get One?

You may have seen in the news that the Washington Redskins had its trademark registration canceled on the grounds that it was “disparaging to Native Americans.”

But what is a trademark, anyway? And who should get one?

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark is, “a word, phrase, symbol, or design or combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.”

While you don’t necessarily have to register your trademark, owning a federal trademark on the Principal Register (the registry of trademarks maintained by the USPTO) has important benefits like:

  • Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;

  • A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration

  • The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court

  • The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries

  • The ability to record the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods

  • The right to use the federal registration symbol ®

  • Listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online databases.

Businesses often consider registering for trademarks to better protect intellectual property and products.

You can file for a trademark through the online TEAS system. Keep in mind, the registration process requires you to satisfy strict requirements and deadlines, so you may want to consider working with an attorney on this.

To get the basics on all things trademark, check out this video. You can also share your ideas about how to improve the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure.

Asked by Anonymous

Where can I register my product design to be protected

There are three different tools available to protect intellectual property: patents, trademarks, and copyrights. 


A patent protects an invention or discovery. There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Learn more about patents and the patent process.


A trademark typically protects brand names and logos used on goods and services, such as words, phrases, symbols, or designs. Learn more about trademarks and how to apply for one.


A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, or architecture. You do not have to register a work with the U.S. Copyright Office in order for it to be protected. Copyright exists the moment a work is created. Note that ideas and discoveries are not protected by copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be. Find out how copyright is different than a trademark or patent.

As an example, if you invent a new kind of vacuum cleaner, you would apply for a patent to protect the invention itself. You would apply to register a trademark to protect the brand name of the vacuum cleaner. And you might register a copyright for the TV commercial that you use to market the product.