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What is a Trademark?
A trademark is any word, symbol, or other device used to distinguish a business’ products or services from those provided by others.
What Law Governs Trademarks?
Trademarks are governed by both state and federal law. The Trademark Act of 1946 (15 USC 1051, et. seq.), also known as the “Lanham Act,” is the operative federal statute. On a state level, trademarks are governed by each state’s trademark, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices statutes. The operative statutes in Illinois are the Trademark Registration and Protection Act (765 ILCS 1036/1, et. seq.), the Counterfeit Trademark Act (765 ILCS 1040/0.01, et. seq.), and the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/1, et. seq.)
There are three general categories of intellectual property that can be protected under U.S. law: Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents.
Trademarks protect a business' name, logo, or slogan from use by other businesses. Patents protect a discovery, invention, or idea. Copyrights protect original works of authorship such as writings, photos, music, movies, software, and architecture.
Original works of authorship may be copyrighted whether they are published or unpublished. Your work is protected by copyright automatically as soon as it is "fixed in a tangible medium." This does not mean that a hard-copy of your work needs to be created in order to receive the benefits of copyright protection. So long as the work can be perceived with the aid of a device such as a computer, the "tangible medium" requirement has been met.