7 Trademark Protection Strategies You Must Use
When it comes to your business, a Trademark is amongst the most valuable assets you have. Trademarks represent your brand and differentiate your company from your competitors.
1 – Choosing a Strong MarkTypically, your Trademark is the first interaction people have with your brand, which is why choosing a strong, recognizable name for your brand is crucial and should be done carefully from the very start.
Trademarks are generally divided into four categories:
- Descriptive Trademarks “describe” a service or product.
- Suggestive Trademarks simply hint at the service or product being offered.
- Arbitrary Trademarks are words or images that already exist but have nothing to do with the business that uses them and are not commonly related to the service or product being offered.
- Fanciful Trademarks are invented words with absolutely no relation to the service or product being offered.
Fanciful and Arbitrary Trademarks generally offer the highest level of protection against infringement. However, the downside is that these types of Trademarks often involve more advertising and marketing to attain customer recognition. On the other hand, Suggestive Trademarks describe some aspects of the products or services being offered. Still, they may be highly vulnerable to infringement.
2 – Executing a Comprehensive Trademark SearchOnce you choose your mark, implement a comprehensive Trademark search in order to determine if another business or individual is already using the Trademark you selected. It can be highly disappointing to find out that your mark may infringe on the Trademark of another business. If infringement has to happen, it is best that this occurs prior to investing money in product labels, signage, or anything else that displays the Trademark. Moving forward, to apply for Trademark registration without executing a comprehensive search could cost you significant amount of money and time in the near future.
3 – Registering Your Trademark with the USPTOAfter conducting a comprehensive Trademark search, the next step in protecting your Trademark from unauthorized use by others is to register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (or USPTO). While simply using your Trademark for commerce may give you common law protections, those protections come with certain limitations.
Although using your Trademark for commerce gives you legal rights to it, these rights are only local. This means your Trademark is not protected if someone in another state of the country decides to use it. Additionally, if you wish to expand to another area where another business or individual is already using the Trademark, you will lack protection and may even find yourself in legal trouble. Registering with the USPTO is the best way to get full Trademark protection all over the country.
4 – Policing Your MarkWhile the USPTO registers the Trademark, they do not enforce the exclusivity of its use – that is your responsibility. You must police your Trademark.
The first step is using the ® symbol once your Trademark registration is complete. This gives public notice to other businesses and individuals that your Trademark is federally registered and protected. No matter where your Trademark is displayed, you must always include the symbol. The reality is that most people do not wish to infringe on your Trademark – using this symbol will save you and every potential accidental infringer unnecessary trouble.
5 – Registering InternationallyUnfortunately, the Trademark protection rights you have in the United States do not apply to other countries. Trademarks are generally considered on a country-by-country basis, and a federal Trademark registration will not protect your Trademarks in disputes outside the U.S.
If your Trademark reaches other countries, whether you manufacture products in China or in Mexico, consider protecting your Trademark internationally.
6 – Maintaining Your TrademarkIn the United States, your Trademark protections are only available as long as you continue to use your Trademarks for commerce. Using a Trademark inconsistently will weaken its protections, a disadvantage in the event of a Trademark dispute. Additionally, under the USPTO regulations, you will need to provide documentation showing continued use of your Trademark at the time of filing for renewals.
7 – Working with a Trademark AttorneyWhen it comes to protecting a Trademark, the best strategy is working with an experienced Trademark Attorney. Many business owners and entrepreneurs take a do-it-yourself approach to business; however, this often leads to costly mistakes.