Trademarks, trade dress, and design patents are each exclusionary intellectual property rights that protect non-functional aspects of an owner’s business operations and product lines by giving the owner legal rights to prevent others from using them. While each of these routes to protect an owner’s intellectual property is somewhat similar and overlapping, differences exist. Each intellectual property right will be discussed below and then compared and contrasted with the other. This topic will be divided into several blog entries with part I introducing trademarks and providing a little history.
A trademark is a distinguishable word, symbol, slogan, or figure which identifies products or services from a specific source and distinguishes from products or services of other sources. Word marks in particular are evaluated on a sliding scale from most distinctive to least distinctive. More distinctive marks lend themselves to stronger trademarks, and are better candidates for registration on the Principal Register of the USPTO. The most distinctive marks are known as "inherently distinctive," as will be discussed here in greater detail.