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When are names trade marked? Say I'm part of a sports team called "Big Ball Chasers" and it wasn't me who named the team that. If I latter decide to

  1. call my dog the same name
  2. join another sports team and encourage them to go by that name
  3. create my own sports team with the same name

would any of these be in violation of trademark?

I've heard companies and products sometimes change their name as there was already an existing one with the same. When situations like this arize, do things normally not go immediatley to court but the parties work it out between themselves? For example (IIRC) the computer language Java used to be called Oak but there already existed a language with the same name so Oak changed there's to Java (but didn't get sued).

  • Trademarks apply when you start saying they do, and they continue to apply as long as you defend the trademark. There's often also registration but this is more for proactive avoidance of TM clashes than a requirement. – Nij Sep 8 '16 at 21:07
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A trademark is:

a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others

You infringe someone's trademark when you use their "sign, design, or expression" in a way which a reasonable person could confuse your products or services with theirs.

"Big Ball Chasers" is an expression which serves to identify the team and could be a trademark: let's assume that the owner of the team considers that it is and is willing to defend it in court. Whether it actually is a trademark will be decided by the court but let's assume that it is.

For your examples:

  1. Naming your dog after the team is not a trademark infringement - your dog cannot be confused with the products or services of the team
  2. This would be a trademark infringement if your team could be confused with theirs. If this is a team with a large brand presence like "Liverpool Football Club" or "Tampa Bay Buccaneers" then it is more likely that what you are doing is an infringement because it is likely that your team would be assumed to be a part of their brand. If this is a local team in say a local softball league in New York and you use the name in Seattle it is not likely they will be confused.
  3. Ditto.

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