A trademark is a word, phrase, slogan, logo, or symbol that represents your product or company. It is an identifier of source, where if someone sees your trademark they will know that the product or service labeled with your trademark is coming from your company and not from somebody else. Let’s study Coca-Cola’s trademarked logo to learn more about what is a trademark.
Above, you can see Coca-Cola’s logo which they own as an approved and registered trademark.
For brevity, let’s just call Coca-Cola simply “Coke” for the remainder of this article. So, why did Coke want to apply for a trademark on their logo? The purpose of getting a trademark is so that only you can use that trademark to identify your product or service. When you see Coke’s logo on a bottle of soda, Coke wants you to know that the cola inside is made by Coke and not by any other company. By seeing the Coke logo on the bottle, you will know that the cola inside is made by Coke. Therefore, the logo as a trademark serves as the identifier of source as it helps you identify who made the cola (Coke being the source).
A trademark can be a word, name, slogan, logo, symbol, or even a sound. As long as it serves the purpose of being an identifier of source, it can be eligible to be a trademark. In the Coke logo example above, this is Coke’s trademark for their logo, which is a unique style of letters. But what about just the phrase “coca-cola”? Does Coke own the phrase coca-cola when just typed out with no style? Coke has a separate trademark for just the words “coca-cola”. This is an important concept where a logo and words are two separate trademarks. Even if the logo has the words “coca-cola” in them, Coke still has a separate trademark for just the words “coca-cola” to protect the logo and the words. It is important to protect the words separately from the logo, as two separate trademark applications.
This article will greatly simplify the concept of trademark classes. See other posts for more complete details. Over-simplified, a trademark only gives protection for when someone sells goods or services in the class or classes your trademark is approved for. Classes can be thought of like categories. For example, the Coke logo trademark above is approved for class 32 which is the trademark category for beverages. This is because Coke is using the trademark to represent beverages. Since their trademark is approved in class 32 for beverages, you cannot use their trademark to sell beverages, or anything that is likely to cause confusion with beverages. However, if you were to use their trademark to sell a good or service that is in another class, such as to represent an accounting firm, you may be able to argue that Coke’s trademark doesn’t cover the services of an accounting firm and you deserve to use the same trademark. Remember, this is an over simplification of the concept as this article is an overview of trademarks only. However, the general concept is that if you have a trademark class 32, your protection is limited to those goods and services in class 32. If someone uses your trademark to represents goods and services that are outside of class 32, they may be able to do so. For a large company like Coke, however, they likely have filed multiple trademarks for multiple classes to cover many different types of goods and services. They will spend the time and money to get trademark protection in multiple classes to prevent people from selling Coke branded anything, from clothing to cups to ceiling fixtures (yes, they actually have a trademark in these classes). As of writing this article, Coke has 61 trademarks for Coca-Cola and similar variations, spanning multiple trademark classes. What’s important is that filing one trademark in one class may not be enough. If you plan to sell multiple different items that are unrelated, like tables and computers for example, you will need to file multiple trademark applications to cover multiple classes to ensure others cannot use your trademark when selling the same items you are selling.
Once a trademark is approved, you can potentially own it indefinitely, provided you renew it at set times set by the trademark office. One requirement for keeping the trademark, however, is that you prove you are continuously using it in commerce. In other words, you have to show that you are still selling goods or services to the public that is represented by your trademark. It’s a “use it or lose it” concept. The trademark office does not want people holding trademarks that they are not actually using. Each time of renewal, you will need to submit proof that you are still using the trademark in commerce.
Have a trademark to apply for? We can help you prepare a trademark application.