Once registered, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will put the trademark in the government’s federal database. This provides notice to any other business that is looking for a trademark. This also provides the trademark holder with the right to bring a lawsuit against anyone else that may infringe upon their trademark protections.
But how does this actually work? A recent case provides an example. In this case, retail giant Walmart has accused famous rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West of infringing upon its trademark protections. The retailer states the rapper has presented a trademark for his shoe and clothing brand, Yeezy, that is so similar to Walmart’s symbol that consumers may become confused.
The Walmart symbol looks similar to a sun logo with six solid lines around a circle. The Yeezy symbol has eight dotted lines around a circle. Representatives from Yeezy point out that they have no intention of deceiving Walmart’s customers into purchasing their high-end brand. In fact, the prices alone may provide clarity as a sweatshirt at Walmart is under $10 and one at Yeezy goes for $350.
To make things even more interesting, it appears the USPTO announced plans to approve the trademark back in December of 2020. If true, this means the mark was examined and the government decided there were no conflicting logos.
The case is in the early stages. Walmart has filed and Yeezy has until May 31 to respond. If nothing else, it has provided an opportunity to highlight how the trademark protection process unfolds. As we see here, the first step for those who have properly registered their trademark involves noticing a similarity and filing suit. If Walmart wins, they could force Yeezy to use a different symbol.