Trademarks exist to identify the origin of some kind of good or service – the origin being the business that serves as the commercial source of that good or service.

What we often miss is that there are two types of trademarks – a trademark and a registered trademark.

While an unregistered trade mark offers some legal protection to the owner, registration offers far more.

But beyond protection, trademarks are also a type of signalling.

In service businesses like consulting they’re increasingly applied to models or frameworks.

The trade mark says that time and expertise has gone into the idea’s creation. 

That we took the time to register this concept as a trade mark.

That you should trust us because of it. 

That it’s worth paying a lot of money to access what lies behind the ™.

In these cases the trademark isn’t really there to protect the IP at all.

It’s there almost solely as a way to differentiate, to increase the perceived value of the service, and to signal.

And it often works.

We could think of Open Source being the opposite of a trade mark. 

But it’s also protected – by its community. 

And it’s also a signal – that we’re open, inclusive.

Wherever we look, there’s more protection – and more signals – in place than meets the eye.

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