First, what is a trademark?
A trademark is a word, symbol, device, or any combination used to identify and distinguish someone’s goods or services from others. Simply using a brand name to sell a product makes it a trademark, but most companies register trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This provides exclusive rights to use that mark, publicizes who the owner is, and allows the owner to take legal action in federal court over a dispute concerning the mark. Only registered trademarks can use the ® symbol. Registration expires after ten years and can be renewed for additional ten-year periods. Unregistered trademarks come with “common law” rights—generally whoever uses the mark first has the right to use it in that way—but they are not governed by statute and only cover the geographical area in which the mark is used. These are followed by a TM. If you thought that was confusing, you’ll want to read the 20 most confusing grammar rules in the English language.