New businesses rarely have extra cash to spend, which means that some of the important legal processes - such as registering your trademark - often slip through the cracks. If cash is tight for your business, it is important to register your company name before your logo. Though you should eventually register your logo, it is less likely to be stolen by a competitor. Your business name, however, should be protected from the get-go, allowing others to know that it belongs to you. Here, we'll address all of the legal need-to-knows about trademarking and how you can better protect your business.
What Exactly Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a symbol, phrase, word, or design that identifies a particular source of goods and services from those that belong to another company.
Trademarks are used to help brand your company and your products. The strength of a trademark is determined by a sliding scale:
- Generic Marks - These are not registerable, as they define goods or services. We see these type of marks with things like bandages, aspirin, etc.
- Descriptive Marks - These are difficult to register because they are used to describe goods and services; an example would be using the term "best electrician".
- Suggestive Marks - These marks are registerable as they imply a particular good or service. For example, Nike suggests shoes, and Greyhound suggest busses. Suggestive marks are strong and normally do not have a difficult time getting approved.
- Arbitrary Marks - These marks are used for a word or symbol and rarely have direct correlation to the goods or service; think - the Apple brand does not correlate to computers. (example is Apple - Computers)
- Coined Marks - These marks are made up of words or phrases, such as Yahoo, Kodak, or Exxon.
Why You Need to Register a Trademark
Registering a trademark serves to prevent other businesses from stealing or imitating your brand. If someone else uses your trade name or logo for their services, a trademark registration will give you several options to stop that infringing use. A registration also puts others on notice that you own the mark that other brands cannot use. Often, providing notice of your rights is enough to prevent others from using your marks. Registration is the only way to formally cement your brand as your own.
Selecting a Mark That Is Critical for Your Brand
How do you select a mark that will set your brand apart from all the other companies? For example, if you are opening a new dental office, what are you going to do to compete with the hundred other dentists in the area? And, how do you convince clients to use your services over others? Essentially, you have to use your mark to increase the strength of your brand. Start by understanding your target audience and how you can reach out to them. Advertising is the top way to get your name out to potential customers. Selecting a mark that is memorable and meaningful can go a long way to setting yourself apart from competitors.
Although trademark rights spring out of use, failing to register your trademark can have serious repercussions for your business. That little ® after your logo or name helps to stand out. It communicates a level of trust with your target audience, as well as lets other companies know you care about your company and you have taken the time to invest in the legalities of running a business.
What is the Registration Process?
Catalyst Legal can provide you with the information needed to register your logo and company name, aid in completing the necessary paperwork, and even help you brainstorm your business' marks if needed. Our goal is to provide you with the best information possible to make an informed legal decision.
What happens if the logo or idea you have come up with has already been trademarked?
To avoid any complications, Catalyst Legal can aid in researching your mark, ensuring that yours is original and will help your business stand out.
Once the trademark has been selected, the paperwork process can begin. To complete the application, you will need the date of first use, samples of the mark, and a list of your goods and service.
Generally, the process is straightforward; however, the trademark examiner may raise the following concern:
- The mark is descriptive or otherwise unable to be registered
- The mark is too similar to another business that offers similar goods
- A disclaimer may be required
Additionally, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will publish your trademark for opposition, opening up the possibility for a legal battle if another company finds your mark too similar to theirs. Utilizing our services can help avoid these issues, as we can provide legal guidance before you submit your application.
Do I Need to Register My Mark?
This is a question we hear all too frequently. The short answer is yes! If you want to protect your ideas and brand, you need to legally register your trademark. Even if cash is tight in your initial stages as a business, trademark registration is a crucial investment in the long-term success of your organization.