Why You Need to Register your Business Trademarks Now!
You’re a new entrepreneur and can’t wait to work on your brand. You come up with your business name, logo, color scheme, and even go as far as hiring designers to develop marketing materials and establish your social media presence. You spend every minute of every hour in pursuit of your great idea. Next thing you know, someone else steals your branding, and you have no way of protecting everything you worked so hard to create.
As The Millennial Business Lawyer™ and lead legal strategist at the Benkabbou Law Firm, PLLC., I deal with these types of challenges day in and day out. I help entrepreneurs with business formation, contracts, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and all ancillary legal matters that pertain to starting, running and scaling a business.
So how do you avoid losing everything you’ve worked for? By registering your trademark.
Trademarks are any names, marks or any device used to identify a brand. Trademarks are not just limited to names and logos, they can also include slogans, colors, smells, sounds, product packaging or any identifying feature of a brand that would help a consumer identify it in commerce. A trademark is an asset to your business as it is a type of intellectual property that holds monetary value.
What can trademarks do for you?
Secure Exclusive Rights
By registering your trademark, you automatically get exclusive rights to use of your brand. You can also keep others from and take legal action against using it without your permission.
Protect your Company’s Goodwill in the Community
A company’s goodwill consists of those intangible, hard to quantify things that make it unique. It could be anything from a brand’s values, quality, and reputation in commerce.
Make Money from your Trademark
You can make money from your Trademark by licensing usage rights to others who wish to collaborate with your brand.
If you decide to register your trademarks, you will find that the process is not as easy breezy as one might expect. Here are some of the things you should expect as well as some information to keep in mind as you embark this process.
Choose a strong name
If you come up with a name that is already in use by another brand that’s in your same relevant market, you will not be able to register the mark as your own. The sad part is that the name doesn’t even have to be the exact same. Any “likelihood of confusion” with another trademark in the same market can mean years in litigation.
Understand the loopholes
You can have the same name as another business without causing a “likelihood of confusion” if the names represent brands in two different consumer markets. There are 45 relevant markets within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under which a trademark can be registered. The markets are identified by “international class” numbers, so it is important to identify under which markets your trademarks could fall. This is heavy stuff, so you would need to enlist some legal help and conduct a legal analysis.
Know how to register
You can only register one Trademark at a time in a single application. For example, if you have a name, a logo and a combination of name and logo together, then those are actually 3 separate Trademarks. So, you will need 3 separate applications to fully protect your brand.
Know Before you Start
Before you start, know that you can protect your trademark before you start using it. There is a separate application for trademarks that are not used in commerce. Check with your lawyer to see if this is an option you should exercise.
Double check those logos
If a designer is creating logos and materials pertaining to your trademark, make sure they warrant the originality of them in writing. If they use already used content as a base, you may have issues when you try to protect it with a Trademark registration. If they are “similarly confusing” to another Trademark in commerce in your market, then you will not be able to register it and you will be infringing.
Get it in writing
Get in the habit of having a contract with everyone you do business with, particularly designers. Better yet, get an attorney to draft contracts for you. An attorney will take the time to understand your goals in order to properly protect your rights. Also, stay away from contract templates online. A contract is only as good as its content, and if a contract doesn’t have the right language, you can lose the protection you were seeking in the first place.
I know this is a lot to digest, so I created some easy to read e-books to explain some of the concepts highlighted in this article. Also, check out this downloadable guide . It’s free and gives you a broad overview of the trademark process.
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About Salma Benkabbou, Esq.
I am The Millennial Business Lawyer™ and lead legal strategist at the Benkabbou Law Firm, PLLC. I am licensed to practice law in North Carolina, New Jersey (since 2013) and in Florida (since 2014). I help entrepreneurs with business formation, contracts, Trademarks, Copyrights, Trade Secrets and all ancillary legal matters that pertain to starting, running and scaling a business to the exit and sale of the business. Trademarks and Copyrights are federal matters so they do not vary from state to state so I help clients with them nationwide.
Words by Salma Benkabbou, Esq.