Guest post contributed by Tricia Meyer, Managing Attorney at Meyer Law.
As an entrepreneur, you know branding is important. You undoubtedly spent hours brainstorming your company name, logo and slogan. Your name and your brand set you apart and help establish your identity in the marketplace. You should put as much effort into protecting them. Here are tips to help you establish and protect your brand:
1. Search all available federal, state, local and county databases
This should be done before you’ve gone to market. Check to ensure that no other companies are using the name you’ve chosen. Keep in mind that trademark laws are accommodating and you can be liable for infringement on someone else’s trademark even if they haven’t formally registered it. Choosing a name that is already in use, even if unregistered, exposes you to the risk of a lawsuit. It will always be easier to choose a different name than to litigate.
2. Use your trademark
You can establish your company’s rights to a trademark by using and displaying it in the normal course of business. You want to put the public on notice that you are using the trademark in association with the products or services you are providing. The more you use your trademarks (name, logo or slogan), the stronger and more distinctive they become. You may use the “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation to let everyone know that you’re claiming rights to the mark. If you decide to register your trademark, you should always use the “®” designation and take care so that the trademark is not inadvertently abandoned, cancelled or expired.
3. Register your trademark.
There are many benefits to registering your trademark, as unregistered trademarks aren’t afforded the same protections. Registering your trademark will allow you the exclusive right to use it, thereby enabling you to further protect your brand. You will also have the ability to pursue infringement claims against both imitations and forgeries of your company’s name and brand images. This is the strongest protection you can obtain to ensure that your trademark remains yours.
4. Monitor potential cases of infringement
Many trademark owners fail to realize that the USPTO does not monitor your trademark for you. It is up to you to determine whether there has been any type of infringement and to enforce your rights. The longer someone infringes on your trademark, the harder it will be to stop it. Turning a blind eye to infringement suggests that the trademark has been abandoned, and thus jeopardizes your rights.
In previous columns I have emphasized the importance of protecting your company’s intellectual property. Your business’ name is chief among your intellectual property assets, because it is the foundation of your company’s brand.
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Tricia Meyer is Managing Attorney of Meyer Law, a boutique law firm providing top-notch legal services to clients ranging from startups, to mid-sized companies, to large corporations in a variety of industries including technology, telecommunications, financial services, real estate, advertising, marketing, social media and healthcare. Connect with Tricia @Tricia_Meyer.
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