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During this season of quarantine and more downtime than expected for many, some people have chosen to engage their minds with games (cards, board games, video games, etc.).

Let’s play a quick game. No need to google, just test yourself, and grade yourself. Below are five names, you identify the product/service they sell.

  1. Goldman Sachs
  2. Ralph Lauren
  3. Smith and Wesson
  4. Hasbro
  5. Audemar Piguet

Feel free to scroll down next to the author’s note at the end of the article for the answers.

How many did you guess right?

Now if you do not use something made by each of these multimillion-dollar companies, it’s alright mainly because very few people do, they were intended to be diverse and come from all walks of the business world.

However, they all share one common factor. The name they hold is used in some form of trademark and is produced on products/items used to illustrate today’s topic: source identifiers.

All of the above marks identify what product they sell (Goldman Sachs would be considered a “service mark” a legal term of art that has similar standards of a trademark but applies to marks that indicate services instead of goods). However, there are still tangible things you can bearing the mark (advertisements, credit cards backed by Goldman Sachs, and brochures and other literature you might find sitting on the table at a random office).

One of the primary purposes of trademark law is for buyers to know where they are buying this product from, and likely with that comes knowing what they are buying. The legal standard for what qualifies source-identifying symbols is “to identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods.”

There are limits to what you can claim as source-identifying. For example, Smith and Wesson, who if you have not seen by now is a weapons manufacturer, cannot have exclusive rights to the name Smith justifying it with “that name identifies where the product comes from.” The word/name Smith does not just do that. However, seeing the Smith and Wesson logo on a handgun will tell any weapons aficionado all they need to know about it because of the mark’s use in the market and familiarity with consumers.

Ralph Lauren is not the only clothing maker that has “Polo” in their clothing lines. People sometimes do get confused when they see other “Polo” tags because they think they are buying Polo by Ralph Lauren. However, the “by Ralph Lauren” part is purposeful in the differentiation of the products, assisting a consumer in knowing what brand they are buying.

Source identifying symbols are important to avoid confusion, a motivating theory of enforcing trademark law for the sake of encouraging creativity and growth in business.

When applied correctly and by an experienced attorney, trademark rules and regulations can be used to protect any business owner, large or small. When you offer a quality product or service, you want the consumer to know exactly where they are buying it from.

And speaking of experienced attorneys, if you have a trademark issue, contact Eden Law today for a case evaluation.


Written by Christian R. Dudley



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