Trademarks are distinctive/unique signs in use by a person, legal entity or business to identify their services or products to customers. This “sign” is used to distinguish a product or service from another entity’s products and services. When a trademark is used to identify services, this is often referred to as a service mark.
A trademark is usually a word, name, symbol, design, phrase, image or even a combination of these varied elements. There are also unconventional trademarks relating to sound, smell, or color.
If someone uses an existing, registered trademark, the owner of that mark may sue them for trademark infringement. Registration of the mark is not required, as the owner of what is regarded as a common law trademark may also sue someone for infringement. An unregistered mark may only be protected in its own geographic area or an area to which it may expand.
There are two common symbols used in the U.S. when it comes to trademarks. The ™ symbol is the trademark symbol, and the ® symbol represents a registered trademark. The mark indicates the level of protection it has. For instance, the ® symbol may only be used if the mark is registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.