So your business is off the ground and your focus has turned to a never-ending series of thoughts about product, inventory, customer service, financing, and employment. Through hard work, you’ve established a successful brand that reflects the core beliefs of your business, and this brand should be secure. Are you taking the necessary steps to safeguard your brand from other businesses that might try to take advantage of your good name and reputation? For most businesses, your name can be your most valuable asset….and it should be protected.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through trademark registration.
For starters, you may be wondering what is a trademark/service mark? A trademark is a recognizable sign, design, or unique expression related to products or services of a particular source from those of others. Names or marks used to identify services are usually called service marks. Essentially, this is something that identifies a particular good or service with your company, and it may be as simple as a name or possibly a logo.
You may be wondering is registration necessary to protect your rights? The short answer is no, but the protections afforded to a registered trademark exceed those available to someone relying on a common law trademark.
Common law trademark rights are created as soon as you begin using your name/mark, typically through offering products/services for sale. The U.S. is a first in time, first in right country, so trademark common law rights attach to a trademark once the trademark is associated with any goods/services in a geographical area.
For some businesses, this may seem like enough protection. However, the safeguards available to registered trademarks exceed those available to those holding common law rights. Some of those advantages to registration include:
- A legal presumption that the holder of a registered mark has the exclusive use nationwide.
- Access to federal courts, which are typically more efficient.
- Increased damages to those infringing on a name or mark, which can act as an additional deterrent.
- Providing official notice to others that a trademark is already taken (through publication or searchable database on state or federal level).
- Prevention of future registration of a similar name or mark that can cause confusion.
- Registration of a trademark in the United States can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign countries.
For additional information about trademark registrations and protections, a great resource is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (https://www.uspto.gov/trademark). If you are interested in learning more about protecting your company’s brand, feel free to contact our firm.
Kevin McCrary is an associate for Cook Yancey in Shreveport. His practice involves commercial transactions with an emphasis in real estate and title examination.