This item was originally posted on August 8, 2011.
In August 2011, I completed the process of Federal trademark registration for the phrase, Wedding University ® (notice the R in the circle), and thought I’d share a bit about what a trademark means, and doesn’t mean, in simple terms.
In the United States, there is a differentiation between registration of a product and service. A product gets a trademark. A service, gets a service mark. Although, either option is referred to as registering for a trademark.
The procedure is not particularly difficult, and only moderately costly. One can use the Federal website for free research, to see if a term or phrase has been registered. Or, if there is any question, you can pay for the research.
The Wedding University ® search now shows this result in the Federal online records. Reading further into the record, it shows me as the service mark holder.
|Goods and Services
||IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Education services, namely, providing seminars, workshops, and webinars in the field of marketing education for wedding professionals; Educational services, namely, conducting programs in the field of marketing education for wedding professionals; Educational services, namely, conducting seminars, workshops, and webinars in the fields of marketing education for wedding professionals and distribution of training materials in connection therewith; Educational services, namely, conducting seminars, workshops, and webinars in the field of marketing education for wedding professionals and distribution of course and educational materials in connection therewith ; Educational services, namely, providing seminars, workshops, and webinars in the fields of marketing education for wedding professionals. FIRST USE: 20031013. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20080923
in the last line, it notes that I first used the term in 2003, though I registered it more recently.
When applying for a trademark, there are many services that can expedite the process for you. I used a service called: Trademarkia.com – It cost me about $425, including the Federal fees. I did not seek outside research, as there were no competing/overlapping trademarks on file. Trademarkia performed the process of application, quickly, and informed me that the government might take about three months to complete the process. I was given login access on the Trademarkia site to check the process of my order. In about two months, the trademark was finalized. The registration period is for a 10-year time frame; renewable, of course.
Trademarks, Service Marks, Copyrights, etc., do not give absolute exclusivity; however, they do give protection and recourse. In general, the laws prohibit another person or entity from using the exact or similar words/image in a way that would be confusing to the average person/public. Variations of spelling or sound generally do not qualify as significantly different, and create an infringement. An example might be to use a Z, and not an S. Since that would sound them same, though spelled differently, it is unlikely to hold up against a challenge.
Added words don’t hold muster either. If someone elected to attempt to use a phrase, such as Wedding University Oshkosh, it would be unlikely to hold up. That one is pretty obvious.
This example is not as simple. If you published a magazine, for instance, titled Bump City Bride, serving the metropolis of Bump City, California, you would not have absolute use of those three words. You would have use of that phrase, as it refers to the name of the magazine, but not as it refers to ‘a woman who gets married in the metropolis of Bump City, California’.… i.e. ‘a Bump City bride’ (lower case letter b).
In addition, fair use of a trademark by media (print, online, etc.,) would allow use of Bump City Bride, with specific reference to the magazine. To be correct, it would need to use the trademark ® symbol. You may notice the letters TM or SM next to a logo. That is an indication that trademark registration has been filed, but not completed.
The major ongoing issue is that you MUST defend infringement on a trademark or you may lose its privilege of exclusive use. I use Google Alerts to notify me about the publishing of various words or phrases on the internet, such as “wedding university”. Immediate awareness of any use/infringement enables me to take prompt action should such a violation occur.
BUSINESS MORALE: The way the internet blurs territories and borders, it is helpful and advisable for many businesses to consider a trademark or service mark than in the past. You wouldn’t want to invest in your brand, over years, and have another company swoop in and over take you…. would you?
Have any lingering questions? A short visit with a trademark attorney should do the trick.
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