Whether you are just starting out in business or have been in business for a number of years, you should consider protecting your right to any trademarks or service marks you may own. The quality and goodwill symbolized by a distinctive mark can be a very valuable commodity to a business and one worthy of protection from infringement. Non-profit organizations also have an interest in protecting their distinctive marks from unwanted infringement.
WHAT IS A TRADEMARK OR A SERVICE MARK?
A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination of these, used by a person (that is, an individual, a firm or partnership, a corporation, or any type of association) to distinguish his or her goods from others. Some examples of well-known trademarks are: Kodak, Coca-Cola, GE, Lifesavers, and the banana lady on a bunch of Chiquita Bananas.
A service mark identifies and distinguishes a person's services and is given the same protection as a trademark. Some examples of well-known service marks are: Rock of Gibraltar - Prudential Insurance Company; Greyhound Bus Lines' Greyhound; and the Golden Arches of McDonald's.
ARE YOU REQUIRED BY LAW TO REGISTER YOUR MARK?
Under the terms of the trademark law there is no requirement that a trademark or service mark must be registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
WHY REGISTER A MARK?
Registration of a mark in Massachusetts results in material advantages to the owner of a mark. A central card file is made available for public inspection in the Trademarks Division office. A person who might have otherwise used a mark identical or confusingly similar to a registered mark may discover the prior use of the mark in a preliminary search of these files. This early warning could mean such a person would use a different mark and a possible controversy may be prevented.
There are evidentiary benefits, as well, that accrue to the registrant of a mark. The Certificate of Registration issued by the Division creates certain presumptions of exclusive ownership of the mark by the registrant which are of significant benefit to the registrant in any type of dispute over his mark.
HOW TO REGISTER A MARK
A mark must be in use in Massachusetts before it may be registered. A mark may then be registered by completing the appropriate trademark or service mark registration application form. The fee for filing is $50 and the effective term of the registration is ten years, and the mark may be renewed every ten years.
These application forms as well as further information regarding trademarks or service marks may be obtained by contacting:
Secretary of State
One Ashburton Place, Room 1717
Boston, MA 02108
For further information on registering your mark with the federal government, contact:
Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office
Crystal Plaza 3
P.O. Box 1451
Arlington, VA 22202
For information relative to copyrights call Federal Copyright Information at (800) 688-9889 or write to:
Library of Congress
Register of Copyrights