Minneapolis patent attorney Suneel Arora defines trademark.

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So a trademark is intended to serve as a source identifier of a product or service. So an example of a product would be something like Coca-Cola – obviously, a ubiquitous trademark – or Google for a service, a search engine service. So the idea behind a trademark is that it is intended to promote a quality good by creating an association between the provider of the good or service and the actual good or service. 

Trademark protection depends on actually using the trademark and getting recognition by the consuming public of the association between the provider and the trademark and the product or service. And it can actually last forever. As long as you’re out there using the trademark, you can have protection that will protect against other people misappropriating your trademark to sell their own products.

Trademarks don’t necessarily have to be limited to just words. Trademarks can actually apply to trade drafts as well, to how a product is configured. It can be embodied in a logo. It can be embodied in a color or a sound. So anything that creates an association between a product and a provider of the product is something that could be used as a trademark. In looking at the slide, for example, the color red on the bottom of shoes, that is a trademark of Louboutin shoes, I believe – very expensive shoes – and it creates an association between the seller of the shoes and it’s actually something that’s desirable on its own – not just as a source identifier, but as a status symbol as well. Other things might be the around thermostat. Like the Honeywell thermostat is round. That’s a trademark, and a product configuration trademark. Another example may be a user interface for a game. Like the Tetris game is actually something that’s a trademarked user interface.

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