What are trademarks and what do they protect?

A trademark is a word, slogan, symbol or design (for example, a brand name or logo) that a person or company uses to distinguish their products or services from those offered by others. A trademark is protectable when it’s used in a distinctive way to identify a product or service. Whether you know it or not, you see trademarks all day long, whether in stores shopping, watching commercials on TV and so on.

Generally, trademark law seeks to protect consumers from being confused about who provides, endorses or is affiliated with a particular product or service. To prevent this situation, a trademark owner may be able to stop others from using their trademark (or a similar trademark) without permission if that use may cause confusion.

Not all terms are subject to trademark protection under the law. Protection depends on a variety of factors, including how unique, generic or descriptive the trademark is and the manner that it’s used. For example, the term “Banana” may be protectable as a trademark to identify an electronics company, but perhaps not to describe a banana farm. In addition, many trademark owners obtain registrations for their trademarks under relevant law, but registration may not be necessary for a trademark to be protected.

Please note that Instagram can’t adjudicate disputes between third parties, and so we wouldn’t be in a position to act on trademark reports that require an in-depth trademark analysis. This is also the case for trademark reports that appear to involve a real-world dispute that wouldn’t be resolved by any action that Instagram could take. In these situations, rather than contacting Instagram, you may want to reach out directly to the party that you believe is infringing your rights, or seek any resolution in court or by other judicial means. If you’re sure you want to report content on Instagram that you believe infringes your trademark, you can do so by completing this form.

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