Trademarks at Cornell

What is a trademark?

A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Frequently Asked Questions -

Trademarks are generally distinctive symbols, pictures, or words that sellers affix to distinguish and identify the origin of their products. Trademark status may also be granted to distinctive and unique packaging, color combinations, building designs, product styles, and overall presentations. It is also possible to receive trademark status for identification that is not on its face distinct or unique but which has developed a secondary meaning over time that identifies it with the product or seller. The owner of a trademark has exclusive right to use it on the product it was intended to identify and often on related products.

Source: Cornell University Legal Information Institute

What is a service mark?

A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Frequently Asked Questions -

Do Trademarks, Service Marks, Copyrights, and Patents protect the same things?

No. Trademarks, service marks, copyrights, and patents all differ. A trademark identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Service-marks receive the same legal protection as trademarks but are meant to distinguish services rather than products. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention. For copyright information, go to For patent information, go to

What are the benefits of federal trademark/service mark registration?

  1. Constructive notice nationwide of the claim of the owner of the trademark/service mark.
  2. Evidence of ownership of the trademark/service mark.
  3. Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.
  4. Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign countries.
  5. Registration may be filed with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office Frequently Asked Questions

Once you have received federal registration, you may use the federal registration symbol (®) to identify your trademark or service mark.

Any time that you are using a mark beyond the bounds of Cornell University and in a context that involves "commerce" (the sale of goods or services), it is worth considering a federal registration. Individual units must make their own assessments as to the desirability of pursuing trademark/service mark registration.

What does it cost?

The cost to register a trademark or service mark generally runs between $1100 and $1500 but can be higher if you encounter opposition. (You can, of course, abandon an application at any point if you need to control costs).

Units are required to pay the costs associated with registration.

Is it worth pursuing trademark registration?

Factors to consider:

  • What is the nature of the intended use? (Commercial? And are you trying to reach a national/international audience?)
  • How strong is the mark? (Unique marks are afforded stronger protection.)
  • Can your unit afford the $1500?

Is it necessary to register a trademark/service mark?

Registration is not necessary. Even without registration, you can acquire common law rights in a mark simply by using it in commerce. You can also use the trademark symbol (TM) or the service mark symbol (SM) any time you wish to alert the public to your rights in a mark, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Putting a (TM) or (SM) next to your mark lets the world know that you are claiming ownership of the mark. It is not required that you provide this type of notice, however. Using the mark in commerce is enough to establish ownership of the mark. (You may only use the federal registration symbol (®), however, after the USPTO actually registers the mark.)

If another entity tries to register the mark in a similar field, you may oppose the registration. A recommended strategy is to check periodically (every three to six months) the pending Patent and Trademarks applications on the US Patent and Trademark Office site:

The use of Cornell trademarks

The use of Cornell name, logos, trademarks, insignia, artwork, and other indicia associated with the university is governed by the Cornell University policy on "Use of Cornell Name" Information on using registered Cornell logos on merchandise is found in the "Visual Identity Guidelines Use of The Cornell Logo on Merchandise" and at the University Relations web site

Whom to contact

The Office of the University Counsel handles the filing of trademark applications. For additional information contact Pat McClary, Associate University Counsel,

Applications for trademarks related to products patented, licensed or marketed by the Cornell Research Foundation (CRF) are filed by CRF. The Cornell Research Foundation (CRF) manages the intellectual property created by Cornell University's faculty and staff. CRF is responsible for obtaining appropriate patent, trademark, or copyright protection on Cornell-owned intellectual property, while concurrently licensing the intellectual property to appropriate commercial partners. See

For additional information on trademarks and service marks, visit the US Patent and Trademark Office site at

revised 11/11/04