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henksgu

Violating trademarks without knowing?

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If I'm to create a new project with this splendid name I have come up with, how do I know I won't be violating any already existing trademarks? I would be planning to create this project using sourceforge. Do they check for trademark violations when accepting "new project" requests? What if someone registers a trademark for the specified name after my project has been created and uploaded? Registering myself would not be an option, due to economical reasons. Trademarks seem a little tricky, please help me out. (Sorry if I'm not in the right forum)

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Federally registered trademarks are not a comprehensive list of
trademarks.

Any marks you use in the trade/commerce are automatically covered by local, federal, and international trademark laws.

Repeat: You automatically have (limited) trademark protection internationally the very first time you use your marks in trade. You don't need register them with anybody on the first day or even the first year.

There are web sites that describe it but I'm too lazy to search for them, so here's a very very brief intro to trademark law.

There are relative "protections" of trademarks, that depend on both the strength of the mark and the scope of use.

Marks include any distinctive thing about your stuff. Your names in commerce, your logos, distinctive wall paper (like Subway's NY theme), color schemes, and so on. Even the type and location of stitches used in shoes has been fought over with trademark laws.

Examples:

From low strength to high strength:
* Apple
* Windows
* Word
* Lotus
* Bob's Computers
* Bob's Taco Stand
* Bob's Amazing Software
* WordPerfect
* Lotus 1-2-3
* Microsoft
* Apple Computers Inc.
* Microsoft Windows XP


Microsoft lost it's trademarks on "Windows" and had it denied several times, even though it was registered with the USPTO. They had a constant fight for over a decade to keep it registered.


Next is the scope.

* You sell your stuff to your neighbors. You get protection from your neighbors using the mark.
* You sell stuff within your city. You have protection within your city and surrounding area. You can probably defend your marks across the country if it is strong enough. You should consider registering your marks with the USPTO.
* You stell suff in multiple cities. You have protection everywhere you sell it. At this point, you should have several lawyers who will have registered your rights internationally.


In summary: Do a simple search at the USPTO.gov web site. Don't use it if it is in use. Do a simple search on Google. Don't use it if it is in use. Think about if you have seen it elsewhere in business. Don't use it if it is in use. Otherwise, feel free to use it.

And finally, there are no guararentees in business. People can sue you for any reason they can imagine, and people are VERY imaginative. Even if you have a registered trademark that has been in use for decades, somebody may still try to sue you for trademark infringement.

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Thank you for explaining. But there is a problem.

I was thinking of naming my project the english name of a greek letter (not decided which one yet) and with a "sub title" something like: "Rigid body dynamics" or "Physics Simulation" and it's rather hard searching for as you can imagine.

I'm not really interested in protecting my own product, but to not step on anybody else's toes. I just want to give this school-project a decent name, during the process of development.

That brings me to another question, could you really register a letter as a trademark? If not, maybe it would be safe using it?

(I will probably, also use the greek letter as a logo)

Thanks for all the help!

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Quote:
Original post by henksgu'm not really interested in protecting my own product, but to not step on anybody else's toes.

[google] search for the name, and if you don't find it, you sound like you'd be willing to rename it for anybody who comes along and challenges you. Since you currently don't have any compelling issue preventing you from changing the name, it probably is not an issue.

Just pick something that your search doesn't find, and that is distinctive.

Quote:
could you really register a letter as a trademark? If not, maybe it would be safe using it?

Yes you can, and yes there are many active single-letter trademarks.

Note that the mark is not just the alphabetic symbol, but the stylized logo of the letter. For example, search the USPTO for "Q" to get

or

and several other logos registered as "Q".


If you called your own business or product "Q", though, don't expect much by way of legal protection. It isn't distinctive or unique enough.

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Quote:
Original post by frob
If you called your own business or product "Q", though, don't expect much by way of legal protection. It isn't distinctive or unique enough.
This is a key issue in Trademark protection. If someone were to use the letter Q in a standard font as their trademark then it would likely be rejected as it isn't distinctive. However, if you turn it into a distinctive stylised logo then it would be OK.

In the OPs case I would suggest using the name and just changing it if someone approaches you and makes it known that they are using the trademark.

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