Fact Sheet: Introduction to Trademarks

Trademark Use

Updated: April 19, 2021

1. How do I use a trademark properly?

Always distinguish a trademark from surrounding text by using capital letters, bold type, italics, color, underlining, quotation marks, or a stylized format that differs from the surrounding text. If the mark is unregistered, use the superscript ™ symbol with the first and/or the most prominent use of the mark on the goods, on their packaging, or on a single item of printed or electronic material advertising the goods or services. If the mark is registered, use the superscript ® symbol or other appropriate notice of registration instead.

  • HYUNDAI vehicles
  • Scotch brand transparent tape
  • “adidas” footwear
  • Canon® cameras

Always use the trademark consistently, including the same spelling, punctuation, and spacing.

  • Montblanc, never Mont Blanc
  • Mercedes-Benz, never Mercedes Benz
  • J.P. Morgan, never JP Morgan
  • H&M, never H and M

Always use a trademark as an adjective that modifies a noun, and never as a singular or plural noun.

  • LEGO bricks
  • AMSTEL lager
  • KLEENEX tissues
  • BAND-AID bandages
  • MARLBORO cigarettes

Never use a trademark as a verb.

  • You are not xeroxing; you are using a XEROX copier.
  • You are not rollerblading; you are skating on ROLLERBLADE skates.
  • You are not fedexing; you are mailing a package with FEDEX delivery service.

Never use a trademark in the possessive form unless the mark itself is possessive or it is functioning as a trade name or company name (as in the last two examples below).

  • JACK DANIEL’S whiskey
  • LEVI’S jeans
  • MCDONALD’S hamburgers
  • Starbucks’ earnings report was released this week.
  • Nestlé’s global market share is expanding.

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2.  When can I use another party’s trademark or service mark without their consent?

In general, you may use a third party’s mark without their authorization if you are referring to the third party or their products or services in a truthful manner. You may not use the mark in a way that mistakenly suggests affiliation with, or sponsorship or endorsement by, the trademark owner. You also may not use more of the mark than is necessary to identify the trademark owner and its products or services. So, for example, you cannot use a third party’s logo when a simple word mark would be sufficient.

3.  Are there restrictions on the use or registration of flags or national symbols of countries?

The laws of many countries prohibit the registration of marks comprising their flags or national symbols, as well as those of other nations. Many countries also have restrictions on the use of marks associated with their political leaders and on marks of certain organizations or semiprivate governmental agencies, such as the Olympics, the Red Cross, and the United States Postal Service.

4.  How do I use trademarks online properly?

Use of a trademark online generally is no different from use of a trademark in print. Certain online uses of another’s trademark, however, such as in domain names, in metatags, as wallpaper on a website or as a keyword purchased from a search engine, may subject you to legal liability.

5.  If I own an Internet domain name, do I have trademark rights in it and can I safely use that phrase or name in my business?

While the law differs from country to country, in general, securing a domain name, in and of itself, does not guarantee that you have acquired protectable trademark rights in the domain name or any phrase within it, or that you can safely use the name or phrase in your business.

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