The process of walking a trademark application through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") is called prosecuting the application. This process is highly organized and the applicant (the person who is apply for the mark) or his attorney must overcome many obstacles and present a specified set of documents to the PTO before the trademark application matures into a trademark registration.
1. An Overview of Trademarks
a. A trademark is a designation given to a product or service to indicate the source of the product or service. In choosing a trademark, the owner must choose a name that is distinct and unique and will be solely associated with the owner’s goods or services. For example, EXXON gasoline and service stations, PEPSI soft drinks, CREST toothpaste and DIAL soap are all unique trademarks that serve to indicate the source of the goods.
b. Types of Marks:
i. Trademark: A trademark is either a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Normally, a mark for goods appears on the product or on its packaging. An example is DIAL soap.
ii. Service Mark: A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. A service mark appears in advertising for the services. An example is NATIONWIDE insurance.
iii. Certification Mark: A certification mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce with the owner's permission by someone other than its owner, to certify regional or other geographic origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of someone's goods or services, or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization. For example, THE GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SEAL OF APPROVAL & DESIGN is a certification mark.
iv. Collective Membership Mark: A collective mark is a trademark or service mark used, or intended to be used, in commerce, by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization, including a mark which indicates membership in a union, an association, or other organization. An example is the AFL-CIO trademark.
Patents are not trademarks. Patent law applies to inventions, chemical formulas or certain computer programs. This is a highly specialized area of the law requiring the services of a competent attorney. A computer program may be protected by either patent law or copyright law, but not by both. Our office does not prosecute patent applications.
A trademark is not a trade secret. A trade secret is generally a formula or process that cannot be easily duplicated, such as the formula for COCA-COLA soft drinks.