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You have probably seen a trademark symbol denoted by a small TM at the corner of a word or phrase, but what exactly does it mean? A trademark symbol is placed on a word or phrase that identifies a product or service provided by a particular source. Similar to a copyright, obtaining a trademark means that only the source of the good can use the trademarked phrase or symbol.


Previously, politician Sarah Palin and daughter Bristol Palin stirred up controversy when they both applied to have their names trademarked. A trademark placed on a name is similar to a service mark since it denotes a service that is being offered by the person. A trademark can be placed on anything as long as it meets certain requirements.

Requirements to Trademark a Name
In order to trademark a name, the name must have three distinct properties: identify a good or service, distinguish the good or service from others, and be a source indicator. The most difficult requirement to fulfill is proving that the name is a source indicator. This is necessary because once a trademark has been approved no one else can use the name or phrase.

In order to be considered a source indicator, the name itself must inform the public of who you are and the service you will provide. This is incredibly difficult to prove, but it can be done with evidence of a “second meaning.” A second meaning means that although a name or phrase is descriptive, when people hear it they think of the specific subject in question. This is difficult with descriptive words such as “red”, but it is easier for a well-recognized name such as Sarah Palin.

Most people who file for a trademark are well established and easily distinguishable by name. It is common practice for celebrities to trademark their name and many have done so already such as Lebron James, Elvis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although the typical person will not benefit from trademarking their name, it serves as good legal protection for public figures whose names may be exploited.

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Starting a new business can be a bit scary. Aside from worries of failure, there’s also the hassle of making sure all legal paperwork are properly filed. I reached out to Mr. Wang (Tommy) because of his excellent reviews and reputation and I am so glad I did. He was thorough and meticulous in answering all of my concerns and took time to find out special laws and policies regarding the kind of business I am starting. I could focus on the daily practical side of starting my new office without worry because I felt Tommy was reliable and took my case seriously. My business is opened and it’s all been a smooth start because of Tommy’s help. I have plans to start another business venture in the next few years and I already know I’ll be coming back to Wang IP Law.

The Shindig W.

I came to Tommy for help reviewing a licensing agreement I had secured with a well-known manufacturer. Tommy made sure I understood all the details in the contract and he negotiated with the company to improve my side of the deal. I mentioned to Tommy at my first consultation that we were looking to expand throughout the US and were investing a lot of money to make a big entrance into the market. I did not think I would have my store open so soon but Tommy also has connections with the local area and realtors to help me secure the location for my first store in the Los Angeles area. Tommy works a lot with the local businesses and he understands how to transition from the Asian market to US market. Within 8 months my store was open for business and fully operating. I must recommend Tommy to any business owners looking for help with contracts and improving their side of the deal. Tommy has the knowledge and experience to make sure there is a smooth process to open for business here, and make sure that your company is set up for success.


I think Tommy and his team by far considered the best people to work with in my 16 business years. Beside quick responses to all my inquiries, they also done things right and providing very professional solutions. I’m highly recommending Tommy and his firm to all business owners.

Calvin C.

I have been working on my Utility Patent for almost 4 years. I have hired and fired two very reputable IP firms because with all their expertise and reputation for being some of the top firms in IP Law, I felt a lack of connection and care in my product, time and financial investment. Then I found Tommy and his team. Tommy does not waste time. He and his team are professional and extremely thorough. After 4 years, I finally found a legal team that I felt spent the time to really understand the components of my utility patent. Tommy also very mindful of cost and how and where my money would be better spent. I really feel I am in great hands with Tommy and his team. They have been patient with my revisions. And most importantly, they made me feel that they fully understood the importance this patent is to me. It has been a great and comforting pleasure working with Tommy.


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