Trademark Basics

What is a trademark?

A trademark is any word, slogan, symbol, design, or combination of these elements, which identifies and distinguishes the goods or services of one party from others.

  • A design that could create a likelihood of customer confusion due to similarity to the university’s trademarks may be an infringement on the university's trademark rights.
  • The university has delegated the responsibility for maintaining, managing, licensing and protecting the university trademarks to the Manager of University Trademarks and Licensing under the direction of the University General Counsel and the Office of University Communications and Marketing.

How is a trademark protected?

  • Federal and state registration: A trademark does not need to be registered for the owner to prevent others from using a trademark or from using a confusingly similar mark. Federal registration provides certain legal advantages to the owner when pursuing infringers. One advantage is that it provides a constructive notice to the public, which prevents anyone from claiming that they did not know the mark existed. Federal law preempts state law so any state registration performed in addition to federal, is for purposes of notice only. A trademark can be federally registered if it is used in interstate commerce. The trademark is registered in the class of goods or services for which it is used. It is possible to have multiple owners for similar trademarks as long as: 1) the goods and services are not related, 2) there is no consumer confusion as to the source of the goods and services, and 3) there is no dilution of a strong mark.
  • Use of ™ or ®: Using the ™ or SM, provides additional notice to the general public. A registered mark may display the words Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. or ®. These displays may only be used with the registered trademarks and on the goods and services actually stated in the Certificate of Registration. It is illegal to use the registration notice on unregistered trademarks or on unregistered goods and services. Recovery of profits and damages in an infringement suit may not be available to the owner if a proper notice of registration is not given. Proper notice is either the use of one of the three registered notices or actual notice as would be the case in a letter sent to the infringer stating that the mark is a registered trademark or as sometimes seen in documents where an asterisk is used to refer the reader to a footnote providing the notice. 
™ or SM can be used with a non-infringing trademark without any formalities and can be used on any goods and services for which the owner wants associated with the trademark.