Why Trademarks are Important to Your Business and 5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Trademarks
A trademark is your brand. It represents the source and quality of the goods or services you provide. A distinctive trademark allows your business to build public goodwill and brand reputation in the goods or services you sell.
Just some of reasons trademarks are important assets for any company include:
Trademarks distinguish you from your competitors.
Your trademarks provide one way you can stand out and apart from your competition. When consumers encounter your trademarks in the marketplace, they immediately know who they are purchasing from, and the quality of the goods/services.
Trademarks are tools to communicate with your consumers.
Brands influence purchasing decisions, and your marks make it easy for your consumers to find you. You can use marks to communicate effectively in media, including print and social media. For example, consumers looking for your goods/services may start by typing your brand name in an Internet search.
Trademarks are assets that can appreciate over time.
Trademarks can last for as long as you use them. Even better, the more you invest in developing goodwill behind your mark, the more valuable it becomes.
Consider your business. What words, symbols or designs identify your business and its product lines?
A trademark can be any word, symbol or phrase that identifies goods or services. Some examples include “SAMSUNG” for various electronics, “CARIBOU COFFEE” for restaurant services and retail store services in the field of coffee, and “BARNES & NOBLE” for book distributorship services and retail book store services.
Symbols that function as trademarks include the Target "bullseye" and the Nike "swoosh."
When you see these famous words and symbols, you immediately know the source and quality of the goods/services provided in connection with these marks.
Because trademarks distinguish you from other businesses, they are an important aspect of your business itself. What aspects of your business serve to distinguish your company from your competitors?
Your COMPANY NAME is the first - and likely the most important - trademark. This mark embodies the goodwill you have built up in your company.
PRODUCT OR SERVICE LINES can be important trademarks for your business. These marks distinguish your products/services from those of your competitors and identify you as the source of those products/services.
PHRASES OR TAGLINES can serve as source identifiers. For example, when you see the tagline, “Just Do It,” what company comes to mind?
Now that you have an idea of where you may have trademark rights, here are 5 things you can do right now to protect them:
1. Use “TM” or ® after your mark every time you use it in print or other media.
These designations put third parties on notice that you assert trademark rights in the mark.
Note: consult an attorney before using the ® symbol, since you can only use it if you have a federal registration.
2. Set your mark apart, literally.
Use your trademark in a distinctive way, so consumers recognize its importance as your brand. When using your mark in various media, set it apart from other text, and use your mark in all capital letters, a distinctive font, and/or a distinctive color scheme. Make it stand out.
3. If you haven’t already, register your trademark.
Registration is available at the state or federal level, and it provides you with the ability to prevent others from using marks that are confusingly similar to yours. Registration is relatively inexpensive and a good investment.
4. Use your trademark as a brand name.
In other words, use the mark as an adjective, followed by the generic name of the product (or services) you provide. For example, you have a “SAMSUNG phone.” Avoid using your mark as a verb or noun (for example, do not say you are “rollerblading”).
5. Use your mark in a consistent way.
This is particularly important for trademarks that include a design element. Choose one way to depict your mark, and stick with that format. Changing the mark in any way could change your trademark rights.
Trademarks are valuable assets of any company, regardless of size. With the proper attention, your trademarks can last indefinitely and continue to increase in value over time. For additional tips, see my website.
Karrie Weaver practices intellectual property, trademark, and patent law. Additionally, she assists nonprofits with their charitable organization and 501(c)(3) status.