Trademark Law And The Internet

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One of the goals of business owners is to make their business and products easily recognizable to their customers and the public in general. If the business can protect its identity with consumers, it encourages production of better products and an emphasis on building goodwill. The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers protection for businesses through the exercise of trademark law.

Trademarks allow businesses to register a word, symbol, logo, or phrase used to identify a particular manufacturer. Service marks are used to identify services, and are treated in the same fashion as trademarks. Trademark law can also apply to a business' unique packaging or color; this is referred to as trade dress . A trademark can only be granted if the item is distinctive; the spectrum of distinctiveness is measured along five categories. The mark can be fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive, or generic.

The fanciful mark is the strongest mark, it is a mark that has been invented for the sole purpose of acting as the trademark and has no other significance, for example EXXON. An arbitrary mark is one that uses a device that has common meaning but no relation to the goods or services, such as Apple used for computers. A suggestive mark is one that suggests quality or characteristic of the goods with use of some imagination. One example is Microsoft, which implies software for microcomputers. Descriptive marks are marks that merely describe the service or goods, which cannot be trademarked. If a descriptive mark builds a secondary meaning with the public and becomes distinctive, it can be trademarked. Marks that are primarily surnames are treated in the same respect as descriptive marks. Therefore if a person's surname is similar to a trademarked name, it cannot be used in a way confuses the product with the previously trademarked device. Generic marks are not able to function as a trademark because it is the name of the product. A valid trademark can become generic if the consuming public misuses the mark sufficiently for the mark to become the generic name for the product, this occurred with aspirin .

In recent years, trademark infringement has become a very serious issue for companies that have operated with little discrepancy about their mark for many years. Many trademarks have been jeopardized through a act called Cybersquatting. Cybersquatting is the act of registering a domain name with the intent of selling it for profit.
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