Proper Use of Trademarks

For maximum legal benefits, you should register your trademark in the jurisdictions in which it will be used. But whether or not your trademark is registered, proper usage is the single most important aspect of trademark protection. If a trademark is used properly, it can remain the exclusive property of its owner indefinitely. Any rights which are acquired by registration are maintained through proper and continuous use of the trademark in commerce.

On the other hand, widespread misuse of your mark makes it difficult to enforce the exclusivity of the mark. Ultimately, a misused mark may become generic or diluted. A generic name is the common descriptive name of the product the trademark identifies. When a trademark becomes generic, it can be used by anyone, and no longer distinguishes the trademark owner's products from the products of other companies. The words "escalator" and "shredded wheat" became generic names and now identify the product, not the manufacturer or marketer. Improper use of these trademarks by the owners and the public contributed to their becoming generic.

To help protect your trademark, you should observe several important guidelines when representing your trademarks in advertising literature, displays and signs, product packaging, labels, business documents and correspondence.

Guidelines for Proper Trademark Use

1. Use the trademark as an adjective followed by the generic name of the product. A trademark is not a noun.

Correct: The TRADEMARKSCAN� online databases are valuable sources for preliminary trademark searching.
Incorrect: TRADEMARKSCAN is a valuable source for preliminary trademark searching.

2. Do not use the trademark in the plural or possessive form.

Correct:The TRADEMARKSCAN online databases are up-to-date.
: TRADEMARKSCAN's databases are up-to-date.

3. Do not use the trademark as a verb. Trademarks are proper adjectives, and should never be used as verbs.

Correct: I searched several potential trademarks for our new product against the TRADEMARKSCAN online databases.
Incorrect: I TRADEMARKSCANed several potential trademarks for our new product.

4. Use the trademark consistently, as each deviation creates a new, dfiferent trademark. Do not use hyphenated variations or combine the mark with other words.

5. Use the trademark distinctively. A trademark should always be written in a manner that distinguishes it from the rest of the text. The following formats are often used to make the trademark more conspicuous than the generic name:
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    ClienT&Times newsletter
    Quotation Marks
    "ClienT&Times" newsletter
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    ClienT&Times newsletter
    ClienT&Times newsletter

6. Use proper notice of trademark. Identify the trademark as registered or unregistered:

� for a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office TM for an unregistered trademark SM for an unregistered service mark

Failure to use a registration notice on a registered trademark may result in lost benefits (i.e., the owner of the company may not be able to sue for past damages) Conversely, using a registration symbol on a trademark that is not registered may subject the user to a fine.

These are simply general educational guidelines for helping to protect your trademark through proper usage; it is not intended as legal advice. Many corporate legal departments provide their employees with trademark usage policies and procedures. As with all trademark matters, consult your company's legal department or outside legal counsel for guidance on proper usage of your trademarks.