General Definitions Relating to Intellectual Property

Brand.  A brand is basically just a synonym for trademark.  See the definition of trademark below.

Business/Company Name.  A business name or company name refers to the actual name of your sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or other business such as a limited partnership or limited liability company.  A business or company name may or may not be a trademark.  Many people mistakenly believe that they are entitled to use their business name/company name as a trademark because they incorporated under that name with their state’s Secretary of State.  The fact that the company name is available from the Secretary of State only means that that it can be used as a business name—not necessarily as a trademark.

©.  The symbol used to indicate that a particular work is protected by copyright law and to give notice to others that the work is so protected.  See the definition of Copyright below.

Clearance Opinion.  An evaluation, often an attorney-client privileged letter, that discusses whether a selected trademark can be used without infringing upon another trademark and whether the selected trademark can be registered as a trademark.

Copyright.  A copyright protects original works of authorship embodied in a tangible form, such as on paper or a computer hard drive.  Examples of works that are generally eligible for copyright protection include literature, music, visual arts, sound recordings, and computer programs.  A copyright grants the author the exclusive right to reproduce the work, distribute it, prepare derivative copies, and publicly perform or display the work.  A copyright has a finite life but it can expire sooner if not properly renewed.

Intellectual Property.  Intellectual property generally refers to the legal rights in, or ownership of, human knowledge, ideas, or creations.  Intellectual property is considered an intangible asset.  There are several different types of intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Logo.  A logo is a type of trademark that consists of a design that is generally used by company or person and placed on its products or printed material related to its services.  The logo may be a design by itself, a design with letters or words, or a design consisting simply of stylized words or letters.  In contrast, some trademarks consist solely of letters or words without any design, but these would not be considered logos.

Patent.  A patent protects useful, new, and nonobvious inventions.  A patent confers the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the invention in the United States for a term of 20 years from the filing date of the patent application.

®.  The symbol used next to a trademark that has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark office.  It is used to give others notice that the trademark is so registered.

Slogan.  A slogan generally refers to a phrase used in advertising or promotion.  Slogans are a specific type of trademark.

Trade Dress.  Trade dress refers to the overall visual appearance of product or its packaging when the appearance of the product or packaging functions as a trademark.  For example, the shape of a bottle could constitute trade dress as could the color and layout of the packaging in which a product is sold.

Trademark.  A trademark is a distinctive word, name, phrase, symbol, design, or other device used by a company or person to distinguish its goods or services from the goods or services of other companies.  Generally speaking, the terms brand, logo, and mark are simply synonyms for “trademark.”

Trademark Application and Trademark Registration.  In order to protect its trademark, the owner must file an application to register the trademark.  Depending on the extent of the use or proposed use of the trademark, the trademark application can be filed either with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, thereby conferring rights across the U.S., or with a particular state’s Secretary of State or trademark office, thereby conferring rights in that particular state.  Once the application is approved and perfected, a trademark registration will be issued.

Trademark Search.  A trademark search will help you determine whether your proposed trademark is available for you to use.  If you adopt a trademark that is already in use by someone else, you may be inviting a trademark infringement lawsuit, and, if you lose the lawsuit (or settle), you may have to pay monetary damages.  A trademark search will also alert you to any prior trademark registrations or pending applications that are likely to prevent you from registering your trademark with the Patent and Trademark Office. Finally, a trademark search will help you assess the relative strength of your mark by showing you how many other similar trademarks are out there in the marketplace.

Trade Secret.  A trade secret is information, such as a formula, program, device, method, technique, or process, that derives economic value from not being generally known or reasonably ascertainable and that is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.  Provided the confidentiality of the trade secret is maintained, the trade secret may have an infinite life.