What is a valid trademark?

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Trademarks |

Trademarks are an essential part of doing business and building a brand. They play an important role in protecting business interests by distinguishing products or services in the marketplace.

But what exactly makes something a valid trademark under U.S. law?

Basic definition

A valid trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design or combination of these things. It must identify and distinguish the source of the goods or services.


For a trademark to be valid and protectible, it must be distinctive and it must be in use in commerce.

It must identify the source of the goods or services. Distinctive trademarks can be arbitrary, fanciful or suggestive. Marks that are descriptive of the goods or services might be protectible on the Supplemental Register if they have achieved secondary meaning in the marketplace. Marks that are merely descriptive or generic are not distinctive enough to be protectible.

It must also be in use in commerce. A company must use it in connection with the sale or advertising of goods or services. The use of the trademark must be genuine and not merely a token used to reserve rights in the mark.

Trademarks and service marks cannot be confusingly similar to existing marks. A mark cannot be so similar to an existing mark that it would cause a likelihood of confusion among ordinarily prudent consumers as to the source or origin of the goods or services. Nor can they deceive or mislead the public as to the source or origin of the goods or services.

A company must consistently and continuously use a trademark to maintain its validity. Trademark owners must actively use their trademarks in commerce and police and monitor the marketplace to ensure that the mark is not being infringed. Failure to do so may result in the loss of trademark rights.

A valid trademark under U.S. law must meet all the requirements outlined by trademark law. By understanding these requirements, businesses can ensure that their trademarks are valid and have protection in the marketplace.