Trademarks for the Everyday Entrepreneur

New Year, New Beginnings, right? Right.

This is always the time of year where everyone is so focused on bettering themselves and their businesses, but so many of you fail to take one of the most important steps in business ownership, which is obtaining exclusive ownership in their brand. It’s time to invest in your business and brand, because a lot of people are catching on to trademarks: what they are, what they protect, how valuable they can be, and how vital they are to the success and longevity of any business – large or small. Thousands of trademark applications are being filed every day, and one of them could be the same or very similar to yours. But guess what, if they beat you to the trademark office, you can forget about it.

So, if you have a name that people know you by in these streets. Either a name for your products, services, or you as a brand. Or you have a logo, catch phrase or design that you associate with your products or services. Whatever you have, you need to protect it! And, sooner rather than later. It’d be a shame to spend years using a certain name, logo or slogan, and build a successful consumer base under that particular name, just to have to change it and rebrand your entire image and identity at some point later because someone else beat you to the trademark office. Or worse, because you didn’t protect your brand name, slogan or logo, someone else comes out and copies it in an attempt to capitalize off of the success you’ve worked so hard to build in your brand. Don’t let that happen to you or your business. Protect your mark.

How do you protect it, you ask? By obtaining a federally registered trademark.

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs (“mark”), that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods and/or services of one party from those of others. In laymen’s terms – it’s the name, slogan or logo associated with your product or service. As an entrepreneur, you may want to trademark your business name, slogan, logo, product names, catch phrases for services offered, your signature frameworks, or anything else you associate with your products or services and use to distinguish them from those of another. Once you’ve selected a mark, it’s vital that you do some research to make sure it’s available for trademark registration.

The mark must not conflict with any other trademarks in the industry or it will fail the hallmark test for trademarks based on “likelihood of confusion”. This means it should not conflict with other existing business names, logos, slogans, etc. especially as it relates to similar products and services your company offers for sale. A google search may reveal some obvious conflicts, but an official comprehensive trademark search will reveal all possible known conflicts in the United States and abroad.

Federal registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is not required, however it does offer certain benefits, such as:

  1. Putting the public on notice of claim of ownership;
  2. Creating certain presumptions of ownership, validity of the trademark and of the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the goods or services associated with it;
  3. Registrants can sue in federal court for infringement; and,
  4. Owners can prevent importation of goods that bear an infringing mark.

Registering your mark is an important first step in gaining protection over it, but you must actively use the mark in connection with the goods and services associated with it, in order for the mark to maintain its federal registration status. Renewals are required every ten (10) years where trademark owners are required to show continued use of the mark. In addition, you must actively police your mark and pursue any unauthorized uses of it. Failure to do so can result in the loss of protection of your mark as well.  Contact our office if you need a trademark registered today!

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