If you’ve had the presence of mind to trademark your business name or logo then congratulations – you’ve already taken the first step in protecting your brand’s assets. If not – let’s back up a second. Why Not? Many people mistakenly believe that trademarking is either terribly expensive or simply unnecessary, and neither could be further from the truth.
Claim What’s Yours.
Would you leave your name off the title to your house, your car, your credit card? Not that most legal entities would allow you to do so, but clearly you can relate to the idea of not wanting other people to claim what’s rightfully yours. If you’ve worked hard to build a business and a brand, would you want someone else to come along and steal your customer base by using the same name and a similar logo? Customers may not notice the difference right away and think that you’ve expanded… when in fact they’re patronizing another company. What’s worse, if you’ve got a great reputation with your customers and this “copycat company” comes along and delivers a poor brand experience, you’ll be guilty by association. Trademarking your business name, logo, and identity are smart ways to avoid that problem.
How do I GET a Trademark?
Well, you can start by using an experienced branding company. At Kompani Group we research names and logo suggestions well in advance of any implementation to make sure no other companies exist that are already using the same (or a similar) name. We search locally, regionally, and nationally to ensure you’re as unique as possible. The more unique you are, the more likely your trademark application will be approved. We cross reference our research against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is the federal government body that assigns all ™ , ®, and ℠ marks. The ™ , and ℠ signify trademarks that have submitted an application for registration, while the ® shows that the application has been successful and the name/logo/or other brand element has been assigned to that one business entity.
While the application itself is not expensive, it takes experience to know about various categories and divisions that apply to your business. This is what makes it possible for Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets to both be in business – they are registered in different categories and there is little to no chance that anyone would confuse airplanes and faucets. So too, your restaurant idea name may indeed be the same as a kids toy, but it’s unlikely customers will think your food establishment is selling toys. An experienced branding firm can also help you consider what categories you may expand to over time so you don’t run into an issue if your restaurant does one day expand to a bed and breakfast, or even a resort destination.
How does a Trademark stop others from copying my ideas?
In the early days of your brand assets, consistently using ™ , ®, and ℠ show other businesses that you’re serious about your brand and that you intend to protect it. This is often enough to keep would-be copycats from attempting to pass off your brand assets as their own. After a year or so of consistent use, unless you’re in a competitive field for brand assets like pharmaceuticals, you should be able to continue using your brand without the additional marks. That’s because trademarking offers you defendable protection for your brand.
By trademarking your brand assets you’ve established a timeline in federal court of your use of the brand. This will make it very difficult (if not impossible) for any company to continue using your brand without your permission. You may even be entitled to financial compensation from the copycat to make up for any lost business or damage to your brand.
However, you may be leaving other important assets unprotected if you think trademark protection only extends to company names and logos.
What else can be trademarked?
Individual product lines, manufacturing processes, services, service techniques, and other proprietary assets of your business can also be considered intellectual property, and are therefore entitled to protection from other companies wishing to claim those assets as their own. So even if you’ve trademarked your company name (in this case let’s say ANYCO®), a competitor could “steal” your SilverStar Service Guarantee if you didn’t trademark it as well.
The process for filing for additional trademarks is the same as any other trademark. Begin with a search on USPTO.gov to see if your product or service is already in use or trademarked by someone else. If that’s clear then you can start evaluating whether you’re indeed trademarking a product, or a service.
Product… Service… What’s the Difference?
As far as legal protection is concerned, there is no difference between a trademark and a service mark. In fact, once the registration of your trademark is established, there is no visible difference whatsoever. Your registered product or service will have the ® symbol next to it when used in public. In the meantime, you’ll be using the ™ symbol for products and items, and the ℠ mark for services and processes. The only thing you must be able to prove is that your product or service is, indeed, unique to your business. Perhaps you hold a patent for a particular item. Or maybe you’ve revolutionized the quality control process in a way that’s different from all other businesses in your industry… those would be excellent candidates for trademarking.
Of course, we can help you identify those assets – and help you understand how to better navigate the registration process.
Contact us to get started protecting all your company’s competitive advantages.