Trademarks cover visual designs that identify the source of goods and services. Examples include the UFC name and logo, and its slogan “As Real As it Gets.” Copyrights protect works of art such as movie scripts, musical compositions, and posters. There are federal and state trademark laws. Federal registration obviously allows the owner to enforce the mark anywhere in the USA, while a state registration allows state enforcement. As one would assume, the state registration is easier to obtain.
In order to prove trademark infringement the owner must show that the offending mark has a ‘likelihood of confusion’ with the owner’s trademark. A series of criteria are used by a court to evaluate the likelihood of confusion:
(1) the strength of the mark;
(2) the proximity of the goods;
(3) the similarity of the marks;
(4) evidence of actual confusion;
(5) the similarity of marketing channels used;
(6) the degree of caution exercised by the typical purchaser;
(7) the defendant’s intent.
Basically, if the trademarks are in the same industry or sport and have a similar design, or words or phrases, the likelihood of an infringement finding increases. The larger organizations which stand to lose the most from potential infringers will be the most aggressive in issuing “Cease and Desist” letters to smaller entities for trademark violations. If the smaller entites fail to remedy the violation by significantly changing the trademark, litigation is likely to ensue.