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Intellectual Property Research

Resources for Intellectual Property Law Research, including patent law, trademark law, copyright law, and trade secret law


A trademark identifies the source of goods. USPTO definition:

"A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods.  In short, a trademark is a brand name."

USPTO Trademark Portal


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®University of Washington

A trademark can be a word, symbol, phrase, or other type of distinguishing mark. The mark must be sufficiently distinctive (i.e., capable of identifying the source of a particular product).

There are 4 levels of distinctiveness:

Distinctiveness Meaning Level of Protection
Arbitrary or fanciful no logical relationship to the underlying product Strong Protection
Suggestive evokes or suggests a characteristic of the underlying product Strong Protection
Descriptive directly describes the underlying product Possible Protection
Generic describes the general product category No Protection

Grounds for USPTO to refuse a trademark include:

  1. Confusingly similar to an existing mark
  2. Merely descriptive
  3. Deceptively misdescriptive
  4. Primarily merely a surname

For more information, see USPTO's "Possible Grounds for Refusal of a Mark."

  1. Legal presumption of exclusive right to use mark nationwide on or in connection with goods or services identified in the registration.
  2. Legal presumption of ownership.
  3. Public notice of ownership.
  4. Mark is recorded with USPTO.
  5. Ability to record with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  6. Right to sue in federal court.
  7. Use as basis for foreign registration.
  8. Use federal trademark registration symbol—®.