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What’s in a Name?

Carrie A. Johnson

trademark symbolAccording to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, “a trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.”  In the U.S., rights to a trademark are established by being the first party to use it in commerce on goods or services.  When selecting a trademark, a trademark clearance search is recommended to confirm whether there are any obstacles to the use and registration of the proposed mark – namely, to determine whether anyone else is using the same mark, or any mark that is similar.  Adopting a mark without the due diligence of a trademark clearance search could result in a costly conflict with a third party over rights to the mark. 

A recent example of a trademark conflict involves the Cleveland Indians baseball team.  The ball club announced they would rename the team the Cleveland Guardians.  However, the existing Cleveland Guardians, a roller derby team, objected to the baseball team’s planned use of their name.  The specifics of the dispute are explained in a BloombergLaw article.  (The article also quotes Ms. Johnson.)  Why the Cleveland Indians selected the Guardians name despite the existence of the identically-named roller derby team is unknown, but the case illustrates an important point. Do not invest heavily in a trademark until it has been properly cleared via a trademark clearance search.  Due to the Cleveland Indians’ investment in the Cleveland Guardians name, the case is ripe for a private settlement.  

If you are interested in a trademark clearance search or federally registering your trademark in the U.S., or in other countries, please contact Ms. Johnson.



The article in this publication has been prepared by Eastman & Smith Ltd. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship.