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What to do if someone steals your trademark

Monster Energy drinks recently filed a lawsuit against Monster Moving--a California-based moving company--for trademark infringement. While the companies serve drastically different purposes, Monster Energy alleges that the moving company used similar designs in their website, trucks, and uniforms to falsely associate itself with the widely known energy drink company.

In light of this growing trend of trademark litigation, it seems like an opportune time to examine what trademarks are, and what to do if you're the victim of trademark infringement.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a type of intellectual property. It can include anything from names to symbols to words that are linked to a particular product or service. Even the unique shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is considered a trademark.

Trademarks are often accompanied by the ® symbol (used for trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) or with a small "TM" or "SM" (for unregistered trademarks). Registering your trademark is generally considered to be a safer way of protecting it.

In the event of trademark infringement

If you believe someone is infringing on your trademark, the first line of defense is generally to send the offender a "cease and desist" letter, in which you order the offender to immediately stop using your trademark. If your letter does not produce the desired results, then filing a lawsuit is a common next step.

In a trademark infringement claim, the court will generally consider:

  • Whether you are actively using your mark
  • Whether there is a likelihood of confusion between the two marks
  • Whether the competing mark decreases the value of your mark
  • How and where the infringing mark is marketed with respect to your mark
  • Whether you own a federal trademark registration for your mark

Your trademark is your creative property, and it provides value to your brand. When it comes to intellectual property, it's important to understand your rights and protect your interests.

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