A trademark (which relates to goods) and a service mark (which relates to services) can be any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce. Trademarks, which is usually the term used to collectively refer to what are technically trademarks and service marks, serve two primary purposes. First, trademarks identify and distinguish either the goods or services of one manufacturer or seller from goods or services manufactured or sold by others. Second, trademarks indicate the source of the goods or services. In short, a trademark is a brand name.
The purpose behind U.S. trademark law, which is codified beginning at 15 USC § 1051
, is to protect consumers. Certainly, giving a trademark owner a right to sue to protect consumers does provide protection for the mark, but that does not change the central focus of the trademark laws. The way the trademark laws approach protecting consumers is by prohibiting even the likelihood of consumer confusion. The core element of determining whether trademark infringement exists is to inquire whether the "reasonably prudent consumer" is likely to be confused as to the origin of the good or service bearing one of the marks.
A properly registered trademark has a ten year duration and may be renewed for additonal ten year periods.