Operating a business and want to distinguish your goods and services from those of all other companies? You should likely consider filing for a trademark. A trademark or service mark or also simply referred to as a “mark” is a word, name, symbol, device, or even any combination of used to distinguish the goods or services of that person or business from the goods and services of all others. A trademark is used on manufactured or produced goods, while a service mark is used to identify the services offered by a person or business. If your business wants to distinguish its goods and services from those of others you should consider filing for a trademark.
Why does my Business Need a Trade or Service Mark?
If you are conducting business with some distinguishing characteristic such as a logo or slogan, you likely would not want a competing business to be using a logo or slogan that is even remotely similar. And while marks are protected at common law, registering the mark at the State and/or Federal level provides added protection. To qualify for a Federal Mark registration the goods or services must be used by a person or business in interstate commerce. The main purpose of the added protection of a registered trademark is the owner of the mark has exclusive rights to the trademark and can prevent anyone else from using it.
Terms to be Aware of When Registering a Trademark
To qualify for a mark in Iowa, the proposed mark must already be in use. This simply means the mark has been used in commerce, and is not an attempt by the registrant to merely reserve rights to marks that may never be used. For goods, in use means when the mark is placed on the goods or is in some way associated with the goods such as on a tag or display. For services, in use means when used or displayed in the sale of advertising of the services, which are provided for in Iowa.
When filing for trademark registration with the Iowa Secretary of State a person or business may also want to be aware of the terms “specimen” or “class”. When filing for the registration, a registrant will be required to submit an example of the trademark, which is referred to as a specimen. This will best be demonstrated by how the mark is actually used or how the services such as in advertising are used. The person or business filing for trademark registration will also need to designate the class of the person or business making the filing. This identifies a general classification of what it is the registrant business provides.
The protection of registered trademarks and service marks are found under Iowa Code Chapter 548. Generally, a person or business may be liable to the registrant in a civil action if the person or business reproduces, counterfeits, copies, or imitates any mark in connection with the sale of goods or services in Iowa. The owner of the mark may then proceed to enjoin the use of the mark if it was done by another unknowingly or the owner may be entitled to recover damages if the mark was used with the intent to cause confusion or deceive.
Trademark law is complicated. If you own a trademark or a considering registering for a trademark, we recommend that you consult with an attorney to ensure you are in full compliance.