What Every Creative Entrepreneur Needs to Know About Trademark Registration
It’s a sad but all too common story.
A local small business owner who failed to go through the trademark registration process receives a cease and desist letter from an out-of-state company they’ve never heard of demanding that they immediately stop using a trademarked word/logo or face an expensive federal lawsuit.
Could you be next?
In the excitement of launching your business, did you take the time to protect your brand name? Or, perhaps worse yet, did you fail to thoroughly examine whether you could be liable for trademark infringement?
Being forced to either rebrand your business or defend yourself in trademark litigation is a potential disaster that could and should be avoided. The cost of rebranding products, websites, brochures, letterhead, business cards, signs, and corrective advertisements can be crippling to a cash-strapped small company. Furthermore, the overwhelming cost of defending a lawsuit can force some businesses to permanently shut their doors. Don’t let this happen to you. Spending a small amount of time and money now on the counsel of an experienced trademark lawyer could save you tremendous aggravation, embarrassment and costly litigation down the road.
Trademark law is one of the most powerful tools entrepreneurs have and the benefits of registration are massive and relatively painless to obtain. To understand the powerful rights registration will bring you, we must first discuss the basics.
What is a trademark?
A trademark or service mark is generally a word or logo that identifies the source of a product or service to consumers — think, APPLE computers or DISNEYLAND amusement parks. These are examples of marks commonly recognized as sources of a certain quality of goods or experiences. As you know first hand, businesses work very hard to build brand equity and goodwill with consumers in an effort to associate high quality and value with their brand and secure customers for life.
Your business’s reputation is essential to its success. The most effective way to protect your good reputation is to register your trademarks with the assistance of an experienced trademark attorney.
What can trademark registration do for my brand?
A lot. The primary goal of trademark law is to minimize consumer confusion by giving trademark owners exclusive rights to use their marks in certain specified industries. It’s through these exclusive rights to use a brand name that the purchasing public can grow to trust companies that provide the products and services they value. Imagine if any manufacturer could sell a product with the name iPad. Soon consumers would lose the trust they have in the quality of goods associated with that name.
In short: trademark registration helps deserving companies grow and thrive.
What are the benefits of trademark registration?
Federal trademark registration benefits include:
- Nationwide protection. Registering your trademark through the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) is the most efficient and effective way to protect of your brand across all 50 states.
- Prevent Knockoffs and Copycats. Registered trademarks have the power to stop dishonest competitors with inferior goods and services from diluting or tarnishing your valuable brand equity and goodwill.
- Puts would-be infringers on notice. The Federal Trademark Register is a formal publication maintained by the USPTO. Show the world that you assert ownership over your brand name by including your mark on this register.
- “Incontestable” status. Your right to use a registered trademark may be deemed “incontestable” after a period of five consecutive years on the federal register with continuous use of the mark, subject to a few exceptions and provided certain conditions are met. Start the five-year clock to make your brand “incontestable” now.
- Creates value for your business as an intellectual property asset. The brand equity and goodwill you’ve worked hard to build in association with your trademark is a business asset that often increases the value of your business in the eyes of prospective acquirers.
- Domain name protection against squatters. In the event domain names that infringe your registered mark are improperly squatted on, a federal trademark registration provides standing to bring an action that can force the infringing site to be shut down.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
– Walt Disney, Icon, Philanthropist, & Entrepreneur
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Trademark is a complex area of the law that is commonly misunderstood and vastly underutilized by many entrepreneurs. For more information, I encourage you to read my other articles:
- Avoid These Common Trademark Application Mistakes
- Supercharge Your SEO with Trademarks
- Business Name Ideas – Read This Before Naming Your Company
*Ian Gibson, Esq. is an attorney licensed to practice in the state of California. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Visiting iangibson.com does not create an attorney-client relationship. This material may be considered advertising under applicable state laws. Copyright 2013 Ian Gibson.