Common Trademark Confusions That Can Lead To Accidental Infringement

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Trademarks are a powerful tool for protecting intellectual property but many people don't understand them. As a result, they make mistakes that could lease to accidental trademark infringement. Here are two common mistakes that can be costly and how to defend against them.

Registration Is Not A Trademark

People often mistake the terms trademark and registration and think they are the same thing. A trademark is defined as something that has been used by a person in commerce, mostly as a way to identify their business or their part company. While registering can be part of trademarking a product, it is not the same thing as getting a trademark.

As a result, people may register their product and think that is enough to keep it safe from use. That isn't the case at all. Trademark infringement cases in these circumstances can be frustrating because registration doesn't necessarily protect their item from being used by others.

Geography Can Limit A Trademark

Few people understand that trademarks are often limited by the geographic area in which the trademark was obtained. For example, a trademark obtained in California is specific to that state only. So a company in Michigan could actually use a similar name or even a logo design without infringing on that company's trademark, as long as they don't try to sell that product in California.

If the Michigan-based company was to sell their product in California, they would then be breaking that California-based company's trademark. The same goes for the California-company trying to sell their product in Michigan, if the Michigan-based company had obtained a trademark. Many cases of trademark infringement can be avoided by understanding this simple fact.

Defenses Against These Claims

In cases where a person accidentally commits trademark infringement based on these examples, what kind of defense can they use? There are several different defenses to this lawsuit. For example, the doctrine of laches states that the company pursuing the lawsuit did not pursue it quickly enough to meet the statute of limitations.

For example, in the example with the California and Michigan-based companies, the California company needs to pursue the case in timely manner or they forfeit the right to pursue the case. Estoppel is a more complex defense that claims the plaintiff did not directly suffer because of the infringement. Often, this is a very powerful defense because it can be so hard to prove a trademark infringement did impact a company's business.

Understanding these complex trademark issues requires a skilled attorney who can walk a person through this concerns. With the help of a skilled lawyer, it is possible to avoid these mistakes altogether or to build a defense against infringement claims.

Contact an office like Lingbeck Law Office for more information.