The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines trademark infringement according to the following rules:
- Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a valid, registered trademark or colorable imitation of the mark. Thus, if the user has permission from the trademark holder (especially in the form of a contract, typically called a license), it’s not infringement.
- The mark must be used on, or in connection with, goods and/or services in commerce. As we’ll talk about, the type of good or service matters a great deal as well. It’s very difficult to infringe on trademarks in a completely different industry or type of business.
- The mark must be used in a way that is likely to cause confusion among customers. Many trademark infringement cases come down to determining this “likelihood of confusion.”