Building a business is no easy task. It takes hard work and a commitment of both time and money. A business needs customers to grow and thrive. The way to reach these customers is through marketing your business, which includes building a brand. Unfortunately, elements of a brand can be misused. The smartest way to ensure your hard work is properly protected is through the use of a trademark.
Brand awareness consists of your name and any symbols or designs you use to identify yourself. As a business owner, the last thing you want to deal with is a competitor using a similar likeness to mislead and steal your customer base.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or combination of these elements that help a consumer identify a product. A trademark is designed to protect goods or services provided by a company. This protection is against any infringement or reputation damage.
Without a trademark, your name, logo, and other elements that create your brand are considered public domain and have little legal protection. With a trademark, you have the legal ability to sue another company that uses your likeness for their own use. This can include both registered and unregistered trademarks.
A trademark plays a significant role in customer shopping habits. Consumers want to know who they are purchasing their goods from. Brand awareness is vital in helping a business thrive in a local or global market. A consumer will base their shopping decisions based on their known or assumed benefits of purchasing from that specific company.
Well-known brands are often associated with quality and security. In fact, certain companies have created such a familiar brand that their name is often associated with the product itself, such as Google, Band-Aids, Kleenex, Q-tips, and many more.
There are two main types of trademarks commonly used by companies around the globe. There is the officially registered trademark granted through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the “common law” trademark. Both trademarks could protect your business, but there are certain considerations that should be factored into your decision.
For example, a common law trademark can work well for a company operating in a small geographical area where competition may not be as fierce. However, in a national setting, there is a much greater risk of companies having similar names or logos. With a common law trademark, you can still use the ™ logo to demonstrate your stake in the trademark.
Even with using the ™ logo, disputes can arise, especially with a common law trademark. This is why registering your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be the right option. This is the most reassuring way to ensure you are fully protected. Trademark registration provides notice to the public concerning the trademark, the exclusive rights to use the trademark nationwide, as well as the ability to bring legal action to court if infringement occurs.
A trademark offers infringement protection, which is vital for ensuring a business can grow and thrive. It is essential to have a mark that is easily identifiable and associated with only your company.
Think of McDonald’s, for example. McDonald’s is a globally recognized brand due to their name and famous golden arches. In its early start, if another company had the ability to steal this name or logo, the actual McDonald’s the world knows and loves today may not have become the global presence it is today. A trademark helps to provide a sense of security when it comes to brand recognition, as any infringement could be legally reputed.
There are several reasons why it would be beneficial to secure an official trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is the most secure way to have an edge in any potential legal situation. With a trademark, you have a legitimate claim on your name, logo, and elements that make your business uniquely yours. While you do not need a trademark to own and operate a business, it can be valuable in protecting your image and brand.
When pursuing protection for your brand, it is beneficial to understand the difference between a trademark and a service mark. It is not uncommon to see trademark used as a term to describe both, but they serve different purposes. A trademark is designed to provide products and goods that are provided to a customer. A service mark is designed to protect the provider of these services.
When you think of major companies such as Apple, Google, McDonald’s, Nike, and more, they often have both trademarks and service marks to protect themselves as a company, as well as the products they provide. Legal professionals in this field can help you better navigate what form of protection is suitable for your needs.
A: The three most common things that a trademark protects are names, logos, and phrases used by a specific company. These elements are vital in creating and maintaining brand awareness. This coverage ensures that what a customer might hear or see is protected. When you think of the company Nike, you likely recognize the name, the swoosh symbol, and the popular phrase “Just Do It.”
A: There are a few things that cannot be registered as a trademark. This includes anything that is too generic, such as a type or class of a product, such as a wrench. You also can’t register anything that could be deemed offensive or obscene. A trademark attorney can help you determine your ability to register your trademark.
A: Trademarks may not expire, but there is a necessity that the trademark continues to be in use. If the trademark is not used for three consecutive years, it can be considered abandoned. If you do buy a trademark, it is beneficial to ensure that it stays in use to avoid the risk of abandonment, which could make your name or logo fair game to your competitors.
A: A slogan can be trademarked as long as all the requirements are met. Some well-known brands have relied on trademarks to ensure their slogans remain under their intellectual property. A slogan is a valuable tool in creating and maintaining brand awareness.
At Four Reasons Legal, our team has extensive knowledge of both trademarks and service marks. We help businesses protect the brand and ideas they worked so hard to build. If you would like to learn more or feel your legal rights have been infringed, we can help. Contact us for a consultation.