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Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Trademarks

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Trademarks are a type of intellectual property that has a commercial purpose. Intellectual property is a business asset that includes "intangible" creations of the human mind — in other words, assets that you cannot feel or touch. There are four types of intellectual property that are recognized in the United States: trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets.

Trademarks are logos, catch-words, slogans, images or even smells that help a business stand out in the market, avoid confusion with similar brands and help the consumer instantly identify a business. In short, they are highly valuable business assets that can be identified and registered with the government to deter copycats, distinguish a brand and, to a certain level, even control the behavior of competitors.

Well-publicized trademarks, like the Nike "check" or the McDonald's "M", are so powerful that consumers instantly think of those brands just by looking at a symbol or logo. Large corporations invest millions, if not billions, to develop, register and protect their intellectual property to ensure they gain or maintain their market share and competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Related: Supreme Court Rules in Google's Favor in Oracle Copyright Case

You can trademark:

The name of a brand (example: Nike)

A logo of a brand (example: The swoosh logo)

A slogan (example: "Just Do It")

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