If you have a good or service, you want a way for new customers and existing ones to easily identify your business. After all, while other companies perform the same function, yours does it better. While you can certainly distinguish your organization with a unique name, a trademark is probably a better option.
By definition, a trademark is a symbol, word or collection of words that represents a product, service or company. To be valid, the trademark must have a legal registration or a record of use. Of course, developing, registering and using a trademark can take a tremendous amount of time, money and effort. Trademarks can also be extremely valuable on their own. As such, owners have an interest in ensuring others do not infringe. What exactly is trademark infringement, though?
In simple terms, trademark infringement occurs when a non-owner of the mark uses it on similar products or services without authorization from the owner. It is important to note that the non-owner’s mark does not have to be identical to the trademark. On the contrary, if a similar mark is apt to confuse consumers, usage of it likely constitutes trademark infringement.
An important test
While understanding the basic definition is likely to give you a good idea of what constitutes trademark infringement, you must realize that not all uses of the same or similar mark infringe on the owner’s trademark. Instead, for a valid claim, owners must establish a likelihood of consumer confusion. Courts typically consider the following factors when evaluating this point:
- Whether the mark is strong in the market
- Whether there is evidence of actual consumer confusion
- Whether the marks are identical or similar
- Whether the products or services are identical or similar
- Whether there are other relevant factors
Clearly, you have an interest in protecting both your business and your trademark. By understanding what trademark infringement entails, you can better accomplish this goal. Note, though, if you suspect an individual or business is infringing on your trademark, you likely must act quickly to assert your legal rights and stop the infringement.