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Alena Herranen, Attorney
4365 Samoset Avenue
San Diego, CA 92117

(858) 581-6779
(858) 581-6479 (fax)
(858) 232-2571 (cell)



By Alena Herranen, Attorney

Trademarks and service marks are a valuable part of your business. Even the smallest businesses should not ignore the importance of trademarks. Trademarks are brand identifiers. They are brand names. Trademarks assist consumers in distinguishing between similar products and services. They help create brand loyalty by allowing consumers to associate your quality product or service with a mark, word or symbol.

What Is A Trademark?

A trademark is a word, logo, slogan, symbol, package design, or other indicator of the source of a product or service. It must be able to distinguish your product or service from others. The best marks are fanciful words with no meaning like “Xerox” for copiers or arbitrary marks like “Apple” for computers. Suggestive marks like “Heat King” for an oven can also be strong marks. Some examples of very powerful trademarks are Coca-Cola, Levi’s, BMW, Rolex and Purina.

What Isn’t A Trademark (Usually)?

Trademarks should not be generic, such as “Diner” for the name of a restaurant. They should not be descriptive like “Spicy and flavorful food”. They should not be deceptive like “Fine Wine” for a non-alcoholic fruit drink. They should not be a surname like “Smith’s Diner”. They should not be a geographic term like “Southern California Restaurant”. And they should not be too similar to existing trademarks such as “MacDonall’s Hamburgers”.

Exceptions to these general rules exist for marks that acquire distinctiveness. Marks consisting of surnames or geographic terms can acquire distinctiveness by virtue of long-term usage or high publicity. “McDonald’s” restaurant, “Ms. Smith’s” pies, and “Kentucky Fried Chicken” are examples of surnames or geographic terms that have become distinctive.

Another important distinction to make is that trademarks are not the same as copyrights or patents. A copyright protects the expression of an idea, such as books, music and paintings. Patents protect an idea, process, machine, design, and composition of a product. Trademarks do not protect the expression of an idea nor the idea itself, but rather the mark identifying the source of a product or service.

To read more about trademarks, see the articles “Protecting Your Trademark” and “Registering Your Trademark.”

*This article is not to be construed as legal advice. It is a general discussion about the subject matter only. Seek legal counsel if you have questions pertaining to this matter and its applicability to your specific circumstances. Copyright, Alena Herranen. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced, transmitted or transcribed without permission of the author.

Copyright by Alena M. Herranen, All rights reserved


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