If you have a small business, you may have chosen a logo, name or slogan that represents your brand. Using your mark on your brand is essential, as you want to draw customers to your business. However, it is important to use the right methods in choosing a trademark to avoid implementing another companies brand or slogan. Trademark infringement occurs when you use a trademark that another company has already registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You may be charged with infringement if your mark even closely resembles another trademark or sounds like another business name.
Before you choose your trademark, you should look on the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office website to ensure the mark is not currently in use by another company. Although registered trademarks are listed on the website, there may be common-law trademarks that are not. Common-law trademarks are ones that company is entitled to use because it was the first to use or design the mark. Yet, trademarks are not required to be registered and so they may not appear on the website. You may still be penalized for using a common-law mark.
When determining whether infringement has occurred, the court will consider whether the infringing mark would confuse customers into believing the goods and/or services come from the same source. This may include how the goods and services are marketed, as well as the strength of the mark that is used.
This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.