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Protecting Your Creativity: What the Heck is a Trademark?

Posted by attorney Steven Rensch

Protecting Your Creativity: What the Heck is a Trademark? (

Remember from the road map in our initial discussion about copyrights that we said the company’s emblem or logo was a trademark. Today, we’ll talk about trademarks.

A trademark is any symbol used in commerce to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from competitors. The symbol can come in many forms, including words, phrases, designs, or images. Some of the most recognizable trademarks in the world include the McDonald’s arches, the Nike swoosh, and the Macintosh apple.

How does this work in real life? When a consumer goes to a store and buys Tropicana orange juice, that consumer knows what she is buying. If she’s bought Tropicana previously, she knows what to expect from this bottle of Tropicana. If she’s never bought Tropicana before, and she finds that she doesn’t like the taste, she knows never to buy Tropicana again. The trademark has provided consumers with a quick and immediate source of information, which in turn cuts down on consumer search costs.

Going back to our original example, the restaurant logo on the menu is a valid trademark. The mark signifies to the consumer the source of the goods. That is, if the restaurant is an Outback Steakhouse for instance, when you see the Outback Stackhouse logo on the menu, you know that the food is going to be of a similar type, price, and quality as all the other Outback Steakhouses across the country. There is no need to do research into the quality or type of food served if you’ve been to one before. You also know that, when you see the Outback Steakhouse logo, you are not walking into a Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse. Therefore, the mark also distinguishes the source from its competitors.

Now that we know what a trademark is, the next post will explain how the decrease in consumer search costs creates self-policing of trademark owners, and how that relates to trademark infringement.

Steve Rensch and Zach Price


3850 E. Baseline Road, Suite 105

Mesa, AZ 85206

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