Can We Use Another Company's Corporate Logo to Advertise Our Training Services?

Question

I am the marketing manager for a technology training company. We specialize in training people in Java. Can we use the Java logo on direct mail pieces as long as we cite the trademark (using the TM symbol) and give credit to Sun Microsystems?

Answer

Trademark law is designed to prevent consumer confusion, as well as give businesses the incentive to build the strength of their brands. Owners of federally registered trademarks have various legal abilities, including the ability to sue infringers for damages and get injunctive relief from courts (in other words, orders that infringing products be removed from sale).

Here, you seek to use the "Java" trademark on your website without the permission of its owner, Sun Microsystems. You should be very careful about doing so.

If you do not receive permission, and Sun believes that your use of Java is either confusing consumers or diluting its trademark, the company can file suit to stop your use. Trademark delusion occurs when an infringer uses a famous mark in a manner that blurs or tarnishes the mark in the eyes of the public. Here, Sun could argue that your training company lowers the value of its famous Java mark.

At the very lease, if you not receive explicit written permission from Sun, your advertisement should indicate that Java is a registered trademark owned by Sun Microsystems and should include a disclaimer that your services are not affiliated with, or sponsored by, Sun Microsystems.

Finally, you must use the federally registered symbol, "R" in a circle (®), when using Java in a commercial setting. Taking these steps will at least lower the chance of consumer confusion, and thus lower the chance that Sun might try to sue.

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