A trademark is a distinctive symbol, word, or phrase that identifies the source of a product or service and distinguishes it from others in the marketplace. Registering a trademark grants the owner exclusive rights to use it in connection with their goods or services.
But what happens when someone else uses a similar mark without permission? When this happens, it is trademark infringement.
What constitutes trademark infringement?
Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a mark that is identical or confusingly similar to a registered trademark, without the trademark owner’s permission, in a way that is likely to cause confusion among consumers. The primary goal of trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion and protect the goodwill associated with a brand.
The more distinctive or well-known a trademark is, the greater the likelihood that its use by another party will be infringement. If the two marks are identical or very similar in appearance, sound or meaning, it increases the likelihood of infringement. If the goods or services associated with the two marks are closely related, it is more likely that it will confuse consumers about their origin.
Consequences of trademark infringement
Trademark infringement can result in serious consequences for the infringing party. Some potential outcomes include:
Cease and desist orders: The trademark owner may demand that the infringing party stop using the confusingly similar mark immediately.
Monetary damages: The infringing party may have to pay the trademark owner for any profits gained from the infringement or for any damages the owner has suffered.
Destruction of infringing materials: In some cases, courts may order the infringing party to destroy any materials bearing the infringing mark.
Injunctions: Courts may issue an injunction prohibiting the infringing party from using the confusingly similar mark in the future.
Understanding the factors that determine infringement and the potential consequences can help businesses avoid infringing on the rights of others and protect their own valuable trademarks.