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Trademark / Trade Dress

Intellectual Property Lawyers Serving Traverse City and Grand Rapids Businesses

If you are a business in Michigan, it is important to enlist counsel to protect your trademarks and trade dress as valuable assets. There is not always a clear line between what is called trademark and what is called trade dress. Generally, a trademark is a mark of some kind that serves to distinguish one business’ goods from similar goods produced by a different business. They may be used to show that certain goods are of a consistent quality or from a single source. Trade dress involves the overall appearance or image of something in order to be sold. It applies to labels, packaging, design, and product configuration. Sometimes it denotes the source of a product and is distinctive enough that it functions more like a traditional trademark. If you are building a business, let the Grand Rapids and Traverse City trademark attorneys at the Neumann Law Group advise you on protecting your intellectual property rights.

Protecting Trademarks and Trade Dress

Both federal and Michigan laws provide protection for trademarks and trade dress. The United States Trademark Act of 1946, also known as the Lanham Act, is most commonly used in trademark and trade dress claims. It protects any words, terms, names, symbols, devices, or combinations of these that are used to describe the origin or sponsor of goods and services, whether or not these are registered. The law prohibits infringement, dilution, and false advertising.

Trademarks and trade dress may be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and often it is wise to make sure that you protect the goodwill and integrity of your business by doing so. In order to register your trademark or trade dress, it must be inherently distinctive or have acquired a secondary meaning among the consuming public. It must be nonfunctional. Our trademark lawyers can help Traverse City and Grand Rapids business owners determine whether trademark or trade dress protection may apply to them.

Michigan’s mark registration is governed by Act 242, P.A. 1969, and it is modeled after the Lanham Act. It provides for the state registration of marks and remedies for infringement. However, it is more limited than federal law.

Federal trademark registration may only be used for marks and trade dress that are used in interstate commerce. For a business planning to operate only in Michigan, registration in Michigan provides notice to others and will provide some protection against infringement. You may also transfer the registration of your mark to a successor in the future. Michigan does not recognize a claim for common law trademark dilution.

Importantly, the protections afforded to trademarks and trade dress are distinct from copyright protections. Copyright safeguards original works of authorship, including literary works, music, art, and other creative expressions. It affords the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their work. Copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of the work and does not require registration, although registering can offer additional legal benefits. The protection typically lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. The purpose of copyright is to stimulate the creation and dissemination of creative works by giving creators control over the use of their creations. While trademarks are designed more to protect the public, a copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that primary protects the creator of the content. If you have questions about a trademark, copyright, or patent issue, one of our qualified business law attorneys can help.

Retain a Trademark Lawyer in Grand Rapids or Traverse City

Trademarks reflect the goodwill of a particular business or organization in Michigan. Registering your trademark may help ensure that the money and time that you expend in establishing your business will benefit you. If you are interested in registering or enforcing your trademark or trade dress, our Traverse City and Grand Rapids trademark lawyers may be able to assist you. Our principal, Kelly Neumann, is an award-winning trial attorney who can keep an eye out for issues that might give rise to litigation. The Neumann Law Group also represents clients in Petoskey, Warren, Holland, Muskegon, Saginaw, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, and the Upper Peninsula; as well as in New York, California, and Massachusetts. Contact us at 800-525-NEUMANN or via our online form to set up an appointment.

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