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Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright



What is a trademark or service mark?

  • A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or smell (or some combination of these) that identifies the source of a product or service.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has information here: What is a trademark?

  • A service mark is a trademark, except that it specifically identifies a service and not a product.

  • The terms "trademark" and "mark" refer to both trademarks and service marks.

Usually a mark for goods appears on the product or its packaging, while a service mark appears in advertising for the services.

A trademark is different from a patent or copyright. A patent protects an invention. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work. 

Federal trademarks, issued by the USPTO, are valid in all 50 states. In addition, each state issues its own trademarks.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides extensive trademark information: Trademark Basics


Important Databases - United States Patent and Trademark Office 


Trademark Searching


State Trademark Information


More Information, including World-Wide Searching


For Historical Investigation


-Missing 1872 - 1875.


Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office - In this period, trademark records were in the same volumes with patent records - these volumes are thanks to the Hathi Trust.

Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. Trademarks. and  Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarks.  Later, trademark records were published in a separate series from patent records.  Again, these volumes are thanks to the Hathi Trust.

Trademark Compared with Business or Organization Name

The name of a business may also be used as a trademark but the two aren't exactly the same.

  • A business name identifies the organization producing a product or offering a service
  • A trademark identifies a product or service
    • The name may be used for both the organization and the product or service.  For example when:
      • the business provides a service such as marketing or accounting
      • the organization's name is also used for a product or service, as 
        • Tesla and Tesla vehicles
        • Google and the Google browser service

The Small Business Administration has detailed business name advice, also including domain name (website address) as a business name.

Trying to Avoid Business Name Conflict:

Business directories are a good place to check for organization names that are already in use.  Here are two with broad coverage:


Claiming a name and for possible searching:

  • We expect DBA (doing business as) filings to be made at the office of the County Clerk (or similar local official)
  • State offices and databases (such as the Office of the Texas Secretary of State and SOSDirect for the state of Texas) for registrations of:
    • Companies incorporated in the state.
    • Limited partnerships filed in state.
    • State trademarks such as Texas Trademarks. 

Some Trademark Examples

Often an organization or business registers a number of trademarks.  Here are two from the Girl Scouts.  The group currently has about 68 live, registered U.S. trademarks.

U.S. Trademark, Registration Number 4081408, (DESIGN ONLY); Registrant, Girl Scouts of the United States of America; Registered January 3, 2012.

U.S. Trademark, Registration Number 1816847, (TYPED DRAWING); Registrant, Girl Scouts of the United States of America; Registered January 18, 1994.


Finding a Trademark Attorney

Trademark work is a legal specialty and the trademark attorneys at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recommend use of a trademark attorney when making a trademark application.  Trademark attorneys are not the same as patent attorneys.  Some may have both specialties but if you identify a patent attorney, you will have to ask about the trademark part.

The USPTO offers a directory of patent attorneys and agents but does not have a similar directory for trademark attorneys.  The USPTO website recommends checking internet listings and attorney referral services from bar associations.

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