When small business owners come to me asking about trademarks, they often open with, "I want to reserve my name so no one else can use it." And I totally get that. You're building your brand, which takes a lot of time, energy, and money. You want to protect that!
But what a lot of business owners don't understand is that trademarks really aren't about you. I repeat: it's not about a business owner getting rights.
Trademark law is actually meant to protect a consumer, not the business owner!
Trademarks, under both common law (think "old English judges in wigs law") and laws passed by Congress, are meant to protect "marks"-- meaning words and logos (colors and scents in some very rare cases) -- that indicate the source of the goods/ services being offered.
The Lanham Act (the law governing Federal trademarks in America) says a trademark is “any word, name, symbol or device or any combination thereof adopted and used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify his goods and distinguish them from those manufactured or sold by others."
Think about it. When you see a "swoosh" logo, you immediately know the shoes/ tshirt/ sports equipment is made by Nike. You know it has been made with certain quality safeguards. When you see the "NARS" logo on your foundation, you know how it works with your skin and how it looks on you. Certain expectations come with that logo!
So remember, when you're working on getting a trademark registered: you aren't the one being prioritized. Frame every use, claim, and presentation of your mark in this way in your mind. Make sure that you're using it in a way to indicate where your goods come from, or the quality level of your services. And always remember that an examiner is looking at the CONSUMER's chance of confusing your mark with someone else's mark, even if it's in a different (yet related) class.
Keeping this in mind is one way you can ensure your trademark is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing: indicating the source of your goods or services!
Who is surprised to learn this? And does it help you? Let me know in the comments!