A trademark can be a word or phrase or logo or picture or color, or a combination of all those, that is used by a business to establish its brand. Trademarks function to let consumers know the origin of the goods and services they are purchasing. Trademarks are valuable business assets and most businesses will invest more in trademarks than other forms of IP protection.
Trademark protection is generally obtained by registering the trademark. In some countries registration is not always a necessity and the trademark owner can acquire rights from the use of the mark in commerce. However, like copyrights, registration does provide benefits, such as constructive notice of the existence of the mark. The government IP office verifies that the proposed mark can qualify as a trademark and that it does not infringe existing trademarks. Trademarks provide limited terms of protection but those terms can be renewed successively.
The trademark owner has the responsibility of policing the mark, ensuring that others are not infringing the mark. Failure to adequately police the mark can result in an inference that the mark has been abandoned by the owner. The test of trademark infringement is whether there is a likelihood of confusion in the minds of consumers as to the source of the goods or services. An infringing party will attempt to pass off goods or services with a similar mark to exploit the goodwill the legal trademark owner has acquired with consumers.