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Davis Brown Intellectual Property Law Blog 

How to Properly Use Your Trademark -- Part I - June 17, 2015

Trademarks and service marks can be any word and/or symbol (or any combination thereof) that identifies or distinguishes the source of a product or service of one party from those goods or services of another party.  In order to maintain your trademark or service mark, an owner must use its mark properly in the marketplace.


Use Your Trademark or Service Mark as an Adjective


Trademarks and service marks are adjectives and should be used as adjectives in marketing and branding material. Importantly, you should never use your trademark as a noun or a verb, as this type of use can help a mark become generic. Your trademark or service mark is a company name that identifies the source of a product--it should never be used to describe your product.


Here are some good examples to use as a guide:



 Proper Use: 


Incorrect Use:

Use the GOOGLE search engine



I would like a STARBUCKS latte


I had a STARBUCKS today

We use a XEROX copier at work


Please XEROX this

Please pass me my CANON camera


Use the CANON for this


Trademarks are not meant to describe the actual product it is intended to identify. The justification is very similar to why you do not want to pick a descriptive trademark. The more your trademark acts to describe a product, the less likely the mark will act as a source identifier. 


Improper use of a mark is the reason several once-famous marks became generic and lost trademark status. For example, trampoline, yo-yo, elevator and corn-flakes were all trademarks at one point. Because of improper use by the owners and the public, these once-famous marks can now be used by anyone without consequence. Most importantly, upon hearing any of these words, you no longer have any ability to know the source of the product the word describes.


There is a proper way to use your trademark and proper usage of a mark is crucial to gain strength and maintain the mark as a source identifier. It is also important because it minimizes the risk a mark will become generic--i.e., not entitled to any trademark protection--or be abandoned unintentionally. The longer a trademark is in proper use, the stronger the mark becomes, and the easier it is to defend against possible infringement by third-parties.


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