Common Law Trademark Rights

Trademark rights arise in the United States from the actual use of the mark. Thus, if a product is sold under a brand name, common law trademark rights have been created. This is especially true once consumers view the brand name as an indicator the product’s source. Common law marks are marks protected because they have been adopted and used, and the public recognizes the products or services identified by the mark as coming from a particular source. The term “common law” indicates that the trademark rights that are developed through use are not governed by statute. Instead, common law trademark rights have been developed under a judicially created scheme of rights governed by state law.

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Copyright Infringement and Fair Use Defense

The United States Copyright law represents a bargain between creators and the public. Congress granted certain exclusive rights to creators and authors for a limited time period; in exchange, the public receives an increase in creative works and expressive ideas that benefit society as a whole. As part of the bargain, U.S. copyright law recognizes some limitations on the exclusive rights of copyright holders. One of the most important limitations is the doctrine of fair use, which was developed over the years as courts tried to balance the rights of copyright owners with society’s interest in allowing copying in certain, limited circumstances. Although the doctrine of fair use was originally created by the judiciary, it is now set forth in the Copyright Act. A use of a copyrighted work that is considered to be “fair use” is not infringement. Although there are no automatic classes of fair uses, courts tend to find fair use where there is a socially beneficial use of a copyrighted work.

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Foreign and International Copyright

There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that automatically protects an author’s works throughout the world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. However, most countries offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions that have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.

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Principal and Supplemental
Trademark Registrations

What are Principal and Supplemental
Trademark Registrations?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has two sections of the Federal Trademark Register: the Principal Register and the Supplemental Register. Most marks are registered on the Principal Register. The Supplemental Register is reserved for non-distinctive marks (merely descriptive and do not have a design element) that are capable of acquiring distinctiveness (i.e. “secondary meaning”), but have not yet done so.

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