At a Glance
The trademarks at a glance section is intended to assist university colleges, departments, administrative units, and programs with understanding what a trademark is and how to properly protect it.
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a type of intellectual property that consists of a recognizable design or expression that identifies the source of products or services. In short, a trademark is a source identifier. Trademarks are tied to specific products or services. The primary objective of trademark law is to discourage and avoid consumer and market confusion.
How are trademarks created?
Trademarks are created through use. Trademarks are recognized in the eyes of the law when a unique design or expression is used as a source identifier. When the trademark owner stops using it, the legal rights associated with the trademark cease (use it or lose it).
What is a registered trademark?
Sometimes, when use of a trademark is established, it may be advisable to register the trademark in a particular legal jurisdiction. Trademarks can be registered federally with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, in a specific state, or in a foreign country. Registered trademarks give the owner certain legal presumptions and rights in the registered jurisdiction (e.g., a federal registration gives the owner the right to sue others for trademark infringement in the United States under the Lanham Act, the federal statute on trademarks). Trademark registrations typically involve upfront and downstream expenses (e.g., registration fees, attorney fees, and renewal fees) and always require administrative oversight.
Most trademarks are not registered. The decision to register a trademark at USU typically is made by the department using the trademark and Trademark Licensing within University Marketing and Communications (UMAC), as advised by the Office of General Counsel.
What does a ® and ™ mean?
Federally registered trademarks should be marked with a ®. Unregistered trademarks and state-registered trademarks should be marked with TM. These symbols notify the public that something is being used as a trademark.
What steps should I take to create a new trademark at USU?
First, brainstorm a unique design or expression for your product or service. The more unique the trademark, the stronger it will be. A design or expression that is merely descriptive of the good or service, overly general, or already used is usually difficult to protect.
Second, once you have some ideas, perform a search to see if others are already using it (start with a simple google search). Search the Utah Trademark database and the U.S. Patent and Trademark database for a more in-depth investigation (see the imbedded links below).
Third, present your trademark proposal to UMAC, Trademark Licensing. UMAC has designers and trademark specialists that can help you through the proceeding steps as well. UMAC will evaluate your proposal and provide feedback. To maximize the value and impact of a trademark, a full marketing plan and style guide should also be developed. At this point (or later when the product or service is more established), the department, Trademark Licensing, and the legal counsel can discuss and evaluate the benefits of registering the trademark.