There are so many things to think about when you are running a business. Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or a start-up entrepreneur, one of the most crucial elements of your long-term success lies in protecting your intellectual property. Specifically, your trademark. It’s the lifeblood of your company, your brand name, the way people know you exist!
A federally registered trademark allows your company to maximize its brand value, and prevents your competitors from using the same mark, or a confusingly similar mark, on their products or services. This month, we consider the importance of federal trademark registration.
Although a federally registered trademark can greatly enhance the value of a company, many business owners fail to protect their company’s name or logo. The trademark process can be confusing and time-consuming and many business owners are simply unaware of what they can, or need to, protect and how to do it.
In general, a trademark is any distinctive word, name, symbol or design that uniquely identifies and distinguishes a company’s goods or services from those of another.
Examples of recognizable trademarks include “Google” for an Internet search engine, “Nike” for athletic apparel, and “Firestone” for tires and automotive services. Trademark protection may also be available for less conventional, intangible marks, such as sounds, smells, colors, packaging, trade dress and domain names.
Think, for example, of the three-ping NBC chime or the Mrs. Butterworth’s bottle design. Almost any distinctive identifier of the source of goods or services may be subject to trademark protection.
If you are using your mark without federal trademark protection, you are not completely unprotected, but your trademark rights are very limited. Under most circumstances, a company selling goods or services without a registered trademark will have limited protection in the geographic area where the company’s goods or services are being sold.
Without a registered trademark, however, you risk: (a) not being able to expand outside of that geographic region, and/or (b) being sued by someone who does obtain federal trademark protection and seeks to enforce their mark against you.
If someone using the same mark for similar or related goods beats you to the trademark office, they will be entitled to use the mark across the entire country, except those areas where you can establish prior use or common law rights. This may ultimately stymie the growth of your company, or force you to change your name.
Consequently, all business owners should seriously consider filing for trademark protection of their brand names. The benefits of having a federally registered trademark are numerous, and include: (i) constructive notice to the public that you claim ownership of the mark; (ii) the ability to prevent others from using the mark; (iii) a valid and complete defense to certain infringement claims; and (iv) the right to obtain incontestable status after use of the mark for five years.
In short, having a registered trademark is an integral part of maximizing your company’s brand value. A registered trademark gives your company the ability to expand into different geographic areas without fear of infringement, and prevents competitors from using a similar mark on their products or services.
For more information concerning trademark protection for your brand name, please contact us for a complimentary consultation. We offer professional trademark search and registration services by licensed trademark attorneys at affordable flat fee prices. Give us a call at (800) 769-7790, or send an email. We’re always happy to hear from you.