Technical and Legal Aspects of the Trademark Game
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hello all,
A trademark is a way of making a product or business immediately recognizable for the consumers who may wish to find and use it. The idea of a trademark has become such common currency that the term is now no longer used simply to refer to matters of legally protected intellectual property, but is used also in another sense, when referring to a typical characteristic of a certain person or organization - for example "The Beach Boys and their trademark close harmony vocals" or similar. The most usual use of the terminology, though, does tend to pertain to the recognizable qualities of a product or organization.

If, for example, one was to go into a convenience store looking to buy a bottle of cola, it would be fair to assume one would have a certain brand in mind. We have ways of telling each brand apart - the color of the label, the typeface in which the product name is written and the shape of the container being three major examples of this. The first two are trademarks which inevitably play a part in the recognition of a certain brand, but the third is more of a curveball. There are certain companies that have trademarked the shape of their products. This is one example of what has become known as a non-conventional trademark.

Non-conventional trademarks have become popular over time as a way of ensuring immediate recognition on the part of a company's target market. In order to avoid using a specific example, let us invent one. Say for example that someone had developed a type of peanut butter that they felt was better than any other commercially available brand. Being a few steps behind the other companies in terms of brand recognition they may hit upon the plan of selling it in a jar shaped like a peanut. There are numerous other, completely recognizable brands of peanut butter on the market, and in most cases these will be recognizable for the color and typeface on their label. What makes a trademark non conventional is that it is not a feature that other companies necessarily consider a marketing point.

A non-conventional trademark may just as easily pertain to a certain color used on labeling that is not used anywhere else. These trademarks will generally need to be registered if the company wants to prevent them from being copied.

Trademarks are generally flagged up on the packaging of a product with the use of one of two symbols. The letters "TM" for a non-registered trademark - considered acceptable when a certain element of appearance is so unique to a product that it is accepted to be the trademark, and ® when a company has registered some part of the packaging as a trademark. In the latter case in particular, anyone found to have been copying this element of the packaging may find themselves paying out damages.
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