Trademark registration law is full of interesting quirks and cases. In this post, we will answer two frequently asked questions about trademark law in the context of well-known brands.
Can One Product Have Multiple Trademarks?
A product or service can have multiple elements that can and should be trademarked individually. The Monopoly® board game provides a good illustration of this. Hasbro, Inc. has registered trademarks for the Monopoly brand name, the Mr. Monopoly name, and character, and the unique names and symbols of the game board’s corner squares (In Jail/Just Visiting, Go to Jail, Free Parking, and Go – although any game can use the word “go”). Each of these trademarks is a distinct verbal and/or visual element that consumers use to identify a product as coming from the Monopoly brand.
In an interesting twist, US courts have ruled that Hasbro’s trademark is not infringed by other board games that use names ending in “opoly” combined with a familiar-looking game board, i.e., spaces labeled with place names lining the four sides of a square board. For example, no trademark infringement has been committed by Late for the Sky Production Company’s city-based games such as Tampa-Opoly and university-based games such as Gator-Opoly.
These games cannot, however, use the trademarked corner symbols that appear on the Monopoly brand game board nor can they use the Mr. Monopoly character. In addition, when these games use trademarked university logos, they must have permission from the trademark owner.
What is the Difference Between the Symbols “TM” and ®?
If you are the first party to use a particular brand name, slogan, or logo, you can put the TM symbol next to it to signify that you claim ownership but have not yet officially registered it as a trademark. This is referred to as a “common law” trademark.
You can only put the ® symbol next to a name, phrase, or symbol that you have registered as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The owner of a registered trademark has specific legal rights above and beyond those available to the owner who claims a common law trademark. The most important right obtained by registration is the right to sue a copycat for trademark infringement and demand specific financial compensation for damages.
Get Assistance from an Experienced Trademark Lawyer
Federal registration of a trademark can be a long and complex process, but it is strongly recommended for brands that seek widespread consumer recognition beyond your local area. The time and cost you spend registering a trademark will be worthwhile as your business grows and the financial risk of trademark infringement increases. Contact an experienced intellectual property lawyer to discuss your legal options.