A trademark identifies the brand owner of a particular product or
service. Trademarks can be licensed to others; for example,
Bullyland obtained a license to produce Smurf figurines; the Lego
Group purchased a license from Lucasfilm in order to be allowed to
launch Lego Star Wars; TT Toys Toys is a manufacturer of licensed
ride-on replica cars for children. The unauthorized usage of
trademarks by producing and trading counterfeit consumer goods is
known as brand piracy.
The owner of a trademark may pursue legal action against trademark
infringement. Most countries require formal registration of a
trademark as a precondition for pursuing this type of action. The
United States, Canada and other countries also recognize common law
trademark rights, which means action can be taken to protect an
unregistered trademark if it is in use. Still, common law
trademarks offer the holder in general less legal protection than
A trademark may be designated by the following symbols:
™ (the "trademark symbol", which is the letters "TM" in
superscript, for an unregistered trademark, a mark used to promote
or brand goods)
℠ (which is the letters "SM" in superscript, for an unregistered
service mark, a mark used to promote or brand services)
® (the letter "R" surrounded by a circle, for a registered
A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol,
design, image, or a combination of these elements. There is also a
range of non-conventional trademarks comprising marks which do not
fall into these standard categories, such as those based on colour,
smell, or sound (like jingles). A trademark cannot be offensive.
The term trademark is also used informally to refer to any
distinguishing attribute by which an individual is readily
identified, such as the well-known characteristics of celebrities.
When a trademark is used in relation to services rather than
products, it may sometimes be called a service mark, particularly
in the United States.
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