As we discussed earlier, the term “trademarks” is being used describe a class of unfair-competition-related forms of IP that includes service marks, certification marks, collective marks, trade dress and trade names.

Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.

A certification mark is any word, name, symbol, device or any combination of these, used, or intended to be used, in commerce by someone other than its owner. These are used to certify regional (or other origin) material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy or other characteristics of such person's goods or services, or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization.

A collective mark is a trademark or service mark used, or intended to be used, in commerce, by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization. This includes a mark that indicates membership in a union, an association or other organization.

The same mark may be associated with a good, a service or a business simultaneously. Also, the same mark may be used simultaneously by two different companies in association with two different types of goods or services or by companies in two different geographic regions. However, this is becoming more difficult with the passage of federal legislation to prevent trademark dilution.

Trademarks provide the owner with the right to prevent others from using an identical or confusingly similar mark or name. Trademark, service mark or trade name protection can last for an unlimited duration.

Trademarks are protected by two different sets of sometimes-overlapping laws – state law and federal law. Consequently, a party seeking to enforce a trademark may have the option of suing in either federal court or in state court.