Whether you’re an entrepreneur just starting out, or already a successful small business owner, it might make sense to protect your creative genius by registering it as a trademark.
While you do not need an attorney to register a trademark, trademark law is confusing. If you’re wondering whether you need to register a trademark, the final answer should come from an attorney who specializes in this area. Meanwhile, here are some basic guidelines to get you started:
What, Exactly, Is a Trademark?
A trademark distinguishes your goods or product from all the others. It assures your customers that they are receiving the high caliber for which your product is known.
A good example of a famous trademark is the Nike slogan “Just Do It,” and the check-styled logo that is stamped on all Nike products. Whenever you see an item of clothing with that check mark, you know it’s Nike, and you automatically know the quality of the product.
Trademarks are everywhere – so much so that we take them for granted all the time. The McDonald’s arches, the Target bull’s eye, and the Google homepage are all examples. When we see a trademark we’re familiar with, we instantly know what we’re getting.
Why Should I Register a Trademark?
If your product has a unique identifier – such as a logo, a slogan, or a catchy business name, registering that identifier as a trademark will protect it. With a trademark in place, your logo (or slogan, or whatever), cannot be used by anyone else trying to promote a similar product or service.
I’ve Used My Logo For Years With No Problem – Why Register Now?
This is one area where you could be right. If you’ve been using your logo, or slogan (or whatever unique identifier applies to your business) for a long time, there are common law rights that may protect you as a trademark owner.
In most instances (but not all), the trademark rights are held by the person who first uses the trademark (that would be you), and not the person who is first to file a trademark application (your competitor, perhaps).
You are more vulnerable, however, if you plan on expanding your business to a national level, if you are selling a retail product, or if you are concerned that someone would steal your original name, logo, or slogan. Under these circumstances, you should seriously consider registering a trademark. By registering your trademark, you put yourself in the driver’s seat should you ever have to protect your interest in a court of law.
Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name
The Entrepreneur's Guide to Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets & Licensing