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Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright: Trademarks


A trademark is the legal way to distinguish goods from one another. A word, phrase, or symbol is trademarked in order to prevent two goods going by the same name, and thus preventing the source of the product getting confused with another. For instance, the name brand Lego is trademarked. No other toy manufacturing company can refer to their products as "Legos".

Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Prerequisites to Create a Trademark

In order to obtain a trademark, the symbol, name, or logo must be distinctive in that it can serve as an identifier for a product. The court will place marks into four different categories regarding the relationship of the mark to the product, which include how arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive, or generic the mark is.

Registering a Trademark

Registering a trademark with the PTO is not required for the trademark to be protected as state laws vary. However, registration with the PTO leads to benefits, such as the ability to use the mark nation-wide, exclusive rights to the trademark after five years, and the ability to dispute infringements in court. Which marks are eligible for registration with the PTO is subjective. The PTO has the ability to deny any applicant registration.

Patent and Trademark Resource Center

The Patent and Trademark Resource Center(s) not only contain TESS, but they are libraries which contain databases of all registered and pending trademarks.  The library staff are trained to help individuals access and navigate search systems, understand the administrative process, demonstrate how to use resources, and some even provide classes on intellectual property.

Trademark Electronic Search System

The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is an online database in which users can conduct trademark searches. Access includes texts, images, and symbols registered, trademark pending applications, and abandoned trademarks.

Design Search Code

The Design Search Code is only useful when a trademark includes a design. Each design code contains 6 numbers that are in accordance with elements of the design. An example of a design code is 01.01.01. with the decimals separating the category, division, and section numbers. 

The Design Search Code can be found here.