Photo of students holding Cal flags during a sporting event

Photo credit: Keegan Houser

A trademark is a word, image, slogan, color, or sound associated, most often, with an organization, company or product. When organizations want to make themselves known to the wider world, or when companies want to differentiate their products from others that are similar, they use special images or slogans. For example, at UC Berkeley, the cursive yellow word “Cal” and images of Oski Bear, our mascot, are trademarks that represent the school’s athletic program.

A trademark is not a functional part of the group or product it represents. Rather, it is a marketing tool. It is meant to increase that group or item’s visibility and recognition in the community.  

If a slogan or image is distinct and used for marketing purposes, it is a trademark. It doesn’t have to be registered with the federal government, but doing this makes it easier to prosecute those who use the trademark without permission.  

Trademarks are registered through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark protection remains active as long as a group continues to use the trademark in its marketing.