TRADEMARK (TM) identification mark, as defined by the Lanham Trade-Mark Act of 1946 (effective 1947): "names, symbols, titles, designations, slogans, character names, and distinctive features emphasized in advertising . . . " used by manufacturers, advertisers, and merchants to identify products and to distinguish them from competitive products.
Registration of trademarks is handled by the U.S. Patent Office subject to the provisions of the Lanham Trade Mark Act. Under this act, trademarks are protected from infringement by competitors. Trademarks also protect the public, so that consumers can feel confident that, in purchasing a particular product with a known trademark, they will receive the product they desire.
There are three basic types of trademarks:
Some other marks, such as certification marks (that certify quality), service marks (that identify services rather than products), and collective marks (that signify organization membership), are also considered trademarks, since they are essentially identifying marks as well, and these are also protected.
Trademarks may be registered on a state or federal level, as dictated by the geographical scope of the business. Federal trademarks tend to be more costly and time-consuming to obtain.
At the federal level, there are two types of trademarks. Primary trademarks, such as the Nike swoosh, are arbitrary, fanciful, or suggestive and are fully protected under the law. Supplemental trademarks are descriptive or generic and are granted a lesser level of protection. Xerox has exercised vigilance in keeping its trademark from becoming a generic term for photocopying.