Updated: Feb 25
This is a short blog post because we don't need to overcomplicate this. What a trademark is, is rather simple. Us lawyers tend to overcomplicate things and there is a legal definition provided below (I just couldn't publish this post without giving the full legal definition - the lawyer in me was screaming.), but I break all the legal lingo into two simple words that you can remember for as long as you wish.
What is a Trademark - A Legal Definition.
What is a Trademark - Simplified into Two Words.
What is a Trademark - A Legal Definition
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the federal agency tasked with registering trademarks, defines a trademark as: a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
15 U.S. Code § 1127 (the commerce and trade federal statue) provides more detail in its definition. 15 U.S. Code § 1127 defines a trademark as any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof—
(1) used by a person, or
(2) which a person has a bona fide intention to use in commerce and applies to register on the principal register established by this chapter, to identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods, even if that source is unknown.
2. What is a Trademark - Simplified into Two Words
While these legal definitions above are not overly complicated, there's a much simpler definition to help you understand trademarks.
A trademark is *drum roll* a SOURCE IDENTIFIER. Thats it! A trademark informs the consuming public the source of the goods and/or services.
Why Source Identification is Important for Any Business
If you think about it, source identification is important and becomes extremely important if you're spending a significant amount of money.
Say you're on amazon looking for leggings and
you come across a pair of leggings for $15.00. The listing has over 200 5 star reviews, but you've never heard of the company and you've never purchased a pair of their leggings. You think to yourself, why not? Let's give this a try and you purchase a pair.
What just happened? Well, because of the low price and good reviews, you care less about the source. The basis of your purchase is not the source, but the low price and good reviews.
2. you come across a pair of leggings for $105.00. The listing has 10 3 star reviews, but you've heard of the company. In fact, you LOVE the company and are extremely excited that they are on amazon! Because you're curious about the the low rating, you read the reviews. You see reviews saying "not worth the money"or "Disappointed, I expected more for the price. Will not buy again." But, you order anyways and can't understand why people are disappointed with the product.
What just happened? You've identified the source! You've come to equate their trademark (whether it be their business name, logo, etc.) with a certain quality of product. Despite the bad reviews, you trust the source.
Setting money aside, source identification retains its importance. As a business grows it builds goodwill through high quality goods and/or services. The consuming public starts to trust the business more and more. This trust leads to repeat customers despite bad reviews due to the customer's personal experience. This is what happened in the second amazon scenario above. The customer has identified the source of the goods and, based on the customer's personal experience with the business, buys despite the bad reviews.
A trademark is a source identifier. It conveys to the consuming public the source of the goods and/or services. Source identification is important because as a business grows so will its goodwill with the consuming public. Proper source identification can lead to repeat customers and a growing customer base.