Trademark on Your Logo Already? Maybe not...

The owner of a Federally registered trademark is presumed to be the exclusive owner of the mark for the goods and services. So, if a word or phrase is already trademarked, does that mean you can’t use it?

Most people think yes. But there is a little loophole in trademark law that allows you to use a trademarked term even if it’s protected and widely used.

Let’s take a closer look with a few examples…

Trademark Example #1: Delta

I’m sure you’ve heard of the airline giant Delta Airlines. But you probably aren’t aware of Kitchen faucet manufacture Delta Faucet.

Delta faucet holds a number of trademarks for its products including its In2ition two in one shower, the Linden waterfall pull-out kitchen faucet, and the Dryden bath faucet.

But it also owns a registered mark on the Delta name, just like Delta Airlines. And they are not the only ones. There is Delta Dental. Delta Computer Group. And Delta Pixel matrix technology (that’s a mouthful).

Obviously, these examples are from completely different industries.

So that can explain the difference in allowing the same trademark term. But just because your product or service is closely related to another in a seemingly same niche doesn’t mean you’re excluded from getting a trademark.

For example…

Trademark Example #2: Whopper

What do you think of when I say whopper?

Depending on your taste buds either the Burger King staple comes to mind…or…Hershey’s milk chocolate malted milk balls.

Now this issue is a little sketchier because they are both food groups, right? Yes, but Burger King and Hershey’s are in two totally different categories.

Trademark Categories

In both examples, the same word is trademarked by different companies. What’s going on here? How can each company claim the trademark?

The reason is that each trademark fits in a different category. There are 34 product categories. And there are 11 service categories. As long as you don’t try to trademark a term that is already taken in a category, or a closely related category, you should be fine.

For example…

Delta Airlines is in the Transportation and Storage Services category and Delta Faucets are in the Houseware and Glass Products category.

Since these industries don’t overlap (no one is going to buy a plane ticket for Delta airlines and complain that they thought they were getting a kitchen faucet) the United States Patent and Trademark Office finds no harm in granting them trademarks for the same term.

For more information on trademarks and patents, you can request a free patent or trademark guide at www.ideaattorneys.com. Or you can call us directly at one of our South Florida offices at 1-866-Idea-Attorneys (1-866-433-2288)

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