What is the scope of protection for a trademark?
UPDATED: December 29, 2019
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For specific goods like perfume, soap, or automobiles, the scope of protection for a trademark should be narrowly applied to the marketing area of the product. However, with licensors licensing famous trademarks for a plethora of products, that narrow scope of protection has expanded broadly in recent years. Are a perfume trademark and an automobile trademark likely to cause confusion if similar names are used? As an example of this kind of potential trademark confusion, Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company is licensing its name for a perfume.
What makes a trademark official?
Under current law, a trademark is any distinctive image associated with a product or service. For instance, Apple has a trademark of a picture of an apple. When a customer walks through the electronics section of a store, they automatically recognize the trademark of the Apple Company.
The mark must also be functional in order to be protected. So for example, a single flower without any connotation to a product or company would not be considered very functional as a trademark. However, if that same flower logo has the company name written above it, then the entire logo becomes functional, expressing the company through a distinct symbol.
Can trademark laws apply to a website?
In the case of Blue Nile, Inc. v. Ice.com, it was determined that there is a possible consideration for applying a trademark to a website’s overall feel and theme. However, the court requires that the trademarked parts of the website be non-functional and distinctive. So the overall layout of Google’s home page, including their logo, could be arguably trademarked.
If someone else has a trademark that is strikingly similar to yours and you feel it may cause confusion with your customers, the person might be infringing on your trademark. You may want to verify your instincts by contacting an intellectual property attorney for a consultation.