Tag: trademark registration

Trademarks for Apps

If you are a typical person today, you’ve likely used at least three different apps before 9 am.  You get up in the morning and click on your weather app of choice to figure out what to wear and whether to take your umbrella.  Then you grab an UBER® to get to the office and during the ride, you order your coffee so it is ready for you as you breeze through the building on the way to the elevator.  No sense in waiting for the coffee, as this is a needless waste of time.  With more and more people relying on apps, app design, branding, marketing, and protection are more important than ever.

The number of mobile apps is exploding. In June 2016, Apple® reported approximately 2,000,000 total apps in its app store.  By May 2017, that number had increased by approximately 200,000.  Mobile apps may be discussed in three categories – mobile web apps that enhance web browsing, apps that offer users a new service not previously available via a smart phone, and traditional brands whose business is widely known (such as WALGREENS®).  With all of the competition in the marketplace, companies must consider how to protect their app brand as a trademark, before it launches the new app into the marketplace.

To be “protectable” as a U.S. trademark, an app must have a few key characteristics.  First, consider the name of the app.  Does it describe a feature or function of the app?  If so, the owner may want to reconsider, as the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office typically does not allow registration of descriptive marks.  Instead, the owner of the app will need to come up with a name that is either merely suggestive of the service the app provides or is arbitrary.  Arbitrary names of apps are those that do not describe or suggest anything about the app.  APPLE® itself is a good example of an arbitrary trademark, as APPLE® is a trademark for computers, pads, phones and other goods and services, all having nothing to do with fruit.  Suggestive trademarks may be the happy medium where the function of the app is not outwardly described, but the app name hints at the meaning.  For example, ENLIGHT® is a photo editor app and would be considered suggestive because it suggests something about photo editing but does not describe it.

In considering the name of the app, owners will also want to pay attention to the color and icon they will use with the app.  Will these elements convey a unique design that may lend itself to trademark protection?  While color is sometimes not claimed as part of a design trademark in the trademark application or emphasized in a typical enforcement setting, in the app setting it is important to claim color, as it is one mechanism to set the app apart from others.

Registration of an app name and design provides many benefits.  The most important benefit is having the presumption that the owner has the right to use the name, design, and color of the app nationwide over all others, subject to certain exceptions.  Another important benefit is that when the app name or design (or both) is a registered trademark, all others are put on notice of the owner’s rights.  That is, all others are held to know about the registered app, even if they did not actually know about it.  Finally, federally registered trademarks may obtain relief from an infringer without a lawsuit.  If the owner simply wants the infringer to stop using the confusingly similar name, design and/or color scheme, the owner need only submit proof to the marketplace on which the app is available, and the marketplace, such as the Apple® App Store, will assist in removing the infringing app.

For further inquiries pertaining to apps and trademark protection and related questions regarding your intellectual property, please contact:

Natalie A. Remien at:

312.368.0100 or nremien@lgattorneys.com.

*UBER®, WALGREENS®, APPLE®, and ENLIGHT® are all registered trademarks of their respective owners.

(Please note that we are not endorsing any products or services mentioned in this blog).

A Guide to Proper Trademark Use

A GUIDE TO PROPER TRADEMARK USE

The proper use of trademarks is vital in order to establish and maintain your invaluable trademark rights. Proper use preserves a mark’s ability to identify the origin of products or services, and minimizes the likelihood that the mark will become generic or be abandoned.

The following guidelines for proper trademark use apply equally to advertisements, promotional material, displays, packaging, product labels, signs, web sites and other media containing, discussing, or describing, marks.

 GIVE NOTICE OF YOUR TRADEMARK RIGHTS

Providing public notice of trademark rights is important for registered and unregistered marks alike.

The appropriate symbol should be used in connection with all uses of the mark. Typically, proper notice should be adjacent to the mark, usually appearing above or below, and to the right of, the mark. When a mark is used throughout a document, the appropriate trademark symbol should be used at least in connection with the first use of a mark.

Trademark Notices in Registered Marks:

The appropriate form of notice to employ when the mark is registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“PTO”) is as follows:

•           Use the symbol, “®”;

•           Use the legend, “Registered, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office”; or

•           Use the abbreviation, “Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off.”

Failure to use proper trademark notices each time a federally registered mark is used may hinder the prosecution of a trademark infringement action by allowing the wrongdoer to claim “innocent infringement” as a defense. If proper notice is not used and displayed prominently the infringer may claim ignorance of trademark rights, and damages available to the trademark owner may be reduced.

Trademark Notices in Unregistered Marks:

Providing notice of unregistered marks is highly recommended, but not required by law. Such notice enhances a mark’s source-identifying function and puts third parties on notice of your trademark rights. Again, placement of the notice should be adjacent the mark, usually appearing above or below, and to the right of, the mark in which rights are asserted. Notice of rights in an unregistered mark, consist of the following notations:

•           TM for an unregistered trademark; and

•           SM for an unregistered service mark.

TRADEMARKS ARE ADJECTIVES – NOT NOUNS OR VERBS

Trademarks and service marks are adjectives, and should be used only as such. Marks should never be used as nouns or verbs. Additionally, marks should not be pluralized, nor used in the possessive form, unless of course, it is part of the mark (e.g. McDonald’s). Use of a mark as a noun or verb, over time, can result in genericness, or a finding of unintentional abandonment – even when such improper use emanates from the public, rather than a trademark owner.

One way to ensure that a mark is used in proper form is to follow each use with the generic noun for the product identified. Using the word “brand” after a mark, and before the generic product name, further guards against improper use.

TRADEMARKS SHOULD BE USED CONSISTENTLY AND DISTINCTIVELY

In order to preserve invaluable trademark rights it is important to use the mark consistently in the same way.  Further, the mark should be set apart from surrounding text. The following are helpful tips to insure your marks are used properly:

•           Do not modify your mark.

•           Do not abbreviate the mark.

•           Consistently use the mark in the same font and style.

•           If color is a feature of the mark, use colors consistently.

•           Do not combine the mark with names or marks of others.

•           Do not use mark in combination with other words, symbols or logos.

•           When possible, set your mark apart from text.

•           When a mark is used in text, the marks should be used in ways that distinguish them from surrounding text.

The use of trademark notices, generic terms, and “brand” in connection with marks, helps differentiate marks from generic terms. However, marks also should be CAPITALIZED, underlined, italicized, placed in “quotation marks,” or depicted in boldface type, whenever they appear in printed or electronic media.

AFFIX YOUR MARK TO GOODS AND SERVICES

Not all product names, business slogans, and advertising phrases are trademarks and service marks. In order for trademark rights to be created and maintained, a mark must be affixed to a specific product, or used in connection with the provision of a particular service.

Trademarks are “affixed” by applying them directly to a product, to packaging for the product, or to tags or labels attached to the product or point of purchase displays. Use of a mark on a website or catalog adjacent to a picture of the goods along with a means to order the goods constitutes proper trademark use. Service marks are “affixed” by using them in signs, promotional materials, websites and/or other advertisements offering the services. As a general rule, a mark is not a mark until it has been affixed!

To learn more about trademark use or discuss any issues relating to the protection of your intellectual property, please contact:

Cynthia B. Stevens at:

(312) 368-0100 / cstevens@lgattorneys.com

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