Guide To Protecting Your Company's IP and Good Will with Trademarks
You spend countless hours and resources developing your products, building your brand, establishing yourself in the market and generating good will. These may have immense value that should be protected. Here are some basic ways to ensure you are realizing and protecting the fruits of your labor.
What is Intellectual Property (IP) and who should be concerned with it?IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by trademarks, copyrights and patents, which enable individuals and businesses to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they create.
In short, everyone should be concerned with IP, but more specifically anyone who owns or operates a business, no matter the size, or offers goods/services to individuals in a marketplace. IP, especially trademarks, are often times overlooked by small business owners, which means that they are failing to protect the good will and market recognition the company/individuals have worked so hard to establish over the years.
What is a Trademark?Just like a brand name, a trademark is any group of words or symbols that represent a product to identify and distinguish it from others in a given marketplace. IP law protects owners by empowering them to prevent the use of their names and/or logos by others in manners that are likely to cause confusion with consumers. Trademarks apply to words or images that are used to identify goods and services and that distinguish them from others in the market. Registered Trademarks are identified by the addition of a TM or R inside a circle next to the mark, which notifies the public that the words or images are registered and protected by the IP Laws.
TrademarksContrary to the common belief, registering a trademark may be reasonably inexpensive and the cost is usually offset by the value of a properly registered Trademark itself. Trademarks have inherent value. Since the protected mark is considered property of the holder and cannot be used by others, without a valid license or permission, the mark itself has value, which may be significant.
Intent to Use TrademarkEven if you have just come up with an idea, logo or name that you intend to use in commerce, you can apply for a trademark to protect its potential future value. This is because Trademark law allows you to apply for an "intent to use" mark, which means that you essentially reserve the trademark for a period of 6 months, which can be extended to 1 year. Then, so long as you can demonstrate that you have begun using the mark in commerce within the 6 month to 1 year period, the "intent to use" mark may be converted to a final registered trademark. This is a very valuable tool for new/start-up companies and individuals who are just starting to offer goods and/or services in the marketplace, but want to ensure that they are protecting any good will or consumer recognition they may be acquiring as they proceed with building their company.