While we might all know what a trademark is, many businesses are certainly not as careful about their marks as they should be. This can be a costly mistake since there are certain things that you must know in terms of registering and protecting your trademark. After all, this is literally the public face of your business that you allow the world to see. For all intents and purposes, the world sees your business as your trademark. Imagine Coke without their logo or Nike without the swoosh image.
Be sure to keep the following tips in mind when trademarking a logo:
Decide on a Strong Mark:
One of the most important steps regarding a trademark is to use something that is strong. This means that you need to avoid general terms, especially since these cannot be legally protected or secured. You also must avoid descriptive marks, if it is also very common.
Obviously, a car dealership would not want to use an image of a car as their trademark since it is far too common to be easily protected. Choosing a good mark often comes down to something that is arbitrary, fanciful or suggestive, according to a number of LegalZoom reviews. Something that is arbitrary has a common meaning, but in this case is being used for something unrelated to that meaning. A good example of this is Subway (the sandwich shop, not the trains).
A fanciful trademark is something that is just made up and has no meaning other than what is assigned to it. Doritos would be a perfect example of a fanciful trademark. Something suggestive might hint at what the product or business does. Of course, there can often be a fine line between suggestive and descriptive.
Advantages to Registration:
Many businesses might be surprised to learn that you are not legally obligated to register your trademark. In fact, you establish a number of certain legal rights simply by using the mark in everyday business activities. Still, there are also some clear and important benefits of registration. First of all, this registration establishes the legal precedence that your mark is being used for commerce or business. Sometimes, this alone is enough to save the day when a dispute arises.
There are also a number of additional rights and protections conferred through registration of trademarks. There is an established time line of use that can prove exactly when you started and that your mark came before a potential challenger. You also retain the right to use the federal registration symbol (®). Without this registration, you will only be able to legally use the “TM” (Trademark) or “SM” (Service Mark) symbols.
Your business and mark can also be registered with U.S. Customs in order to protect against any imports that might infringe upon your mark. If there are any problems, you can bring forth disputes in federal court and you also have an easier bridge to registering your marks in foreign countries.
Secure Rights by Actually Using Your Mark:
A trademark can be helpful in any future expansion plans. Even if you do not have expansion plans right now, the day might come when your company becomes national. Having a good solid mark can help your business develop name recognition and a whole host of other benefits.
Planning ahead and having full registration can also protect you against disputes that might come up in other areas. Using the mark also gives you a better claim. Make sure to renew the registration every 10 years. You also will need to file a Declaration of Use between the fifth and sixth year after the original registration date. These requirements all solidify your claim to the trademark.
Protect Your Trademark:
No matter who you are or what your business does; it is possible that disputes might occur. This will involve monitoring the use of your trademark and then deciding when it is appropriate to take action in order to defend your business, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.
If you see the name being used for a different product, consider whether or not your business might have similar types of products. Consider the strength of your mark and how long you have had it, whether or not your claim has a decent chance to hold up in court, etc.
Going About Trademarking a Logo:
Trademarks are a relatively involved area of the legal code. You should take enough time to go over all the facts and do thorough research. Trademarking a logo involves using research or other professional services since not all applications make it to registration.
Above all, make sure that you are following the guidelines listed above in choosing a solid trademark. Then, be sure to have a clear idea about how you actually intend to use the mark, and use it on all your marketing materials, products, and even product displays.
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