If you’re a business owner, then you’re most probably familiar with the term “trademark”. Otherwise, a trademark can be any word, symbol, or design that helps people identify your company’s goods and services uniquely. In other words, it helps your target audience or the marketplace to differentiate products from those of your competitors in the marketplace.
A trademark also gives customers reassurance that they’re buying from a reputable source with an established reputation for quality and reliability. If you don’t have a trademark yet, then now might be a good time to start considering one. Let’s delve deeper into this and determine why you really need a trademark as a business.
Why should your business have a trademark?
At this point, you should already have a clue about why a trademark is important to businesses. It can help your brand in various ways, including the following:
It helps you build a strong brand image:
With a trademark, customers can see your business as well-established and reputable. This helps establish trust and even loyalty from customers in the long run. In turn, this should help increase sales, boost your profit margin, and skyrocket growth over time.
In addition to boosting the reputation of your company in the eyes of consumers, having a trademark also helps protect your brand. Remember, a trademark gives your business a unique identity. If other businesses use a similar trademark to yours for their products or services, it may cause customer confusion and lead to a loss of sales for you. You could also get in trouble with the law if you use a trademark whose rights belong to another company in certain geographical regions where they operate.
This is why, in the US, you can register your trademark at the federal level at no extra cost. This will protect it across all 50 states of America, which covers a wide range of products and services that are protected under US law. Alternatively, you may also consider using a trademark registration service in the US to help you with the process. But what does the process entail, really?
Registering a trademark
If you’ve determined that having a trademark is right for your business, then the next step is to register it with the relevant authority. There are several steps that you’ll need to go through during trademark registration, and this is where much of the challenge comes in.
First, the mark must be distinctive enough not to cause confusion with any other marks already registered by third parties (known as prior rights). Next, your proposed mark cannot infringe upon existing trademarks. The good thing is that you can perform a trademark search to determine this online through the respective authorities’ websites. From there, you need to understand the basis for filing your application:
Use-based vs. intent-to-use trademark application
You can register a trademark in America through either an “intent-to-use” or “use-based” application. If you have not yet started using the mark, then this will be on an intent-to-use basis. Your intent to use the mark must be genuine and it only becomes registered once you provide proof of use as an applicant. On the other hand, a use-based trademark registration application is filed by an applicant who is already using the mark for commerce reasons in the US.
Apart from these, other common bases of application include foreigners seeking to register trademarks already registered in other countries outside the US. Under the Madrid Protocol, some applications can be filed via the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) rather than directly through the USPTO.
Understand the requirements
To register a trademark, you should also understand the requirements. These often include the applicant’s name, correspondence addresses, the mark design, related products and services for which the mark represents, alongside an application fee. Other requirements may include:
- Verified financial statements
- Basis for filing
- State of incorporation
- A description of the mark
- Visual marks, sound, scent marks, as well as non-visual marks
Once you satisfy the requirements, your application is reviewed, a search is conducted, and you get awarded with a trademark certificate upon successful registration.
It’s important to note that while you will get some protection from using an unregistered trademark in certain circumstances, if another business challenges your use of the mark, then you may lose that right to use it. If you do need the protection of your unregistered trademark in America, then you should file a statement of use.
Stopping someone using your trademark
If you’ve registered your trademark with the USPTO, then it’s easier to protect yourself from infringers. You’ll need to file a lawsuit in Federal Court against them if they continue using your mark without permission. If you haven’t yet filed for registration of the mark, then there are other remedies available for protecting unregistered trademarks such as the common law remedies of unfair competition, misappropriation, and passing off.
If you don’t have a registered trademark, then it may be wise to also use your business name as its corresponding website address (domain). This serves two purposes: firstly, it helps protect your company’s name because you’ll have a better chance of being awarded the domain if someone else had tried to register it. Secondly, having a website is an important part of marketing your business and establishing its online presence.
In summary, having a trademark may be vital for your business. It can help boost sales by building a strong brand image while also protecting the interests of your company from competitors. While it’s important for you to have some form of protection, if you haven’t yet filed for registration, then be sure that any use of a trademarked name or logo may not count as infringement upon existing trademarks.
While this guide has been written to provide some basic information on the topic, it may be advisable for you to consult with a lawyer or trademark agent to ensure that your business is adequately protected.