Small Biz Alert: Guarding Your Intellectual Property: Trademarks & Service Marks 101

Learning to pick the right trademark can make or break your business


the Miami Heat have put themselves in prime position to win a third consecutive NBA championship--- a three-peat or 3-peat. (Image: File)

After their game six destruction of the Indiana Pacers, the Miami Heat have put themselves in prime position to win a third consecutive NBA championship— a three-peat or 3-peat.

The rights to those catchy phrases commonly used to describe a sports team that wins back-to-back-back titles actually belongs to Miami Heat President Pat Riley and his firm, Riles and Co.

Also, remember those long, dragged out court battles between Christian Louboutin and YSL over the rights to using red-soled shoes?

What do these two high-profile stories have in common? Trademark protection and infringement.

So what is a trademark?

Black Enterprise recently attended an Intellectual Property clinic in New York City.

It was a workshop on the basics of intellectual property law put together by the Community Development Project, Legal Aid Society, New York’s Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and law firm Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto. They provide workshops and portfolio training sessions in different areas across New York as well as provide loans to small businesses or people who either have bad credit or are working to build credit.

According to Tim Kelly, a partner at the law offices of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto, “Trademarks are pretty much anything that functions to identify a source. It can be a car — a smell– a word– even a color. The idea is to identify the source of your product and service so it can be separated or distinguished from some other firm’s.”

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  • TM expert

    Trademarks ARE country specific. if you want foreign rights, you must secure the
    in the various countries you wish to do business. And, you have to do that quickly, because most foreign jurisdictions are first to file. Trademarks may sound easy, but you really should consult a lawyer well versed in trademark and copyright law (not Legal Zoom or Trademarkia, which have messed up a lot of people’s marks). If the person is primarily a patent lawyer, I would ask specifically how many trademarks the person has filed and prosecuted (it’s public record at and how many trademark lawsuits they’ve litigated.