Your Brands, your assets. How to protect them
For most companies and businesses the name and brand of the business are the most valuable or sometimes only assets owned by the company. Do not waste your time and make sure they are properly protected.
Starting a new business!!!You are excited about your new business. You have great products and people love your service. Most likely the main value of your business will be your company and products brands. Just like a child*s name, you want to pick a brand not only that you will like, but that will convey your business message and that you will be able to protect..
The purpose of a trademark is to identify the source of a product or service. It can be a name, a graphic, slogan, a jingle, or almost any sensorial stimuli. Trademarks are short, like the name of a TV program, the title of a song, the name of a company. Copyrights are for covering the whole content, such as the concert, the script of a movie, the contents of a book.
What can be protectedNo all trademarks are created equal. The easiest route many follow is to use names that pretty much describe or tell the customer what they are buying. Dry cleaning, dental services, roasted peanuts, are examples of generic or descriptive marks. Although it may seem counter intuitive, doing that may become an issue, specially when it comes to determining who has superior rights over some of those brands.
Can you imagine how many Dry cleaners are in New York? or Doctors in your town? or Law Firms? One tie breaker can be whether customers have learned to associate the name with your product, service, or company. So when you buy a Nike product, that does not tell you in the name what it is, but you know you are getting a sports related product (tennis shoes, soccer ball, etc.) because you have been trained that way.
When it comes to formalize your ownership, via a federal or international registrations of your mark, the law gives preference to marks that have no direct meaning. Trademarks can only be enforced in the countries where they are registered, so if you plan to go global you need to do a thorough analysis. Examples of marks that are considered strong are Kodak, Xerox, Nike, etc. These marks are considered arbitrary or fanciful. They are given preference over the Dry Cleaners, Dental Care, Law Firms. I know it makes it more difficult for the owner, as well as the consumer to identify the product or service, but the goal is to identify the source (Kodak for photography, Xerox for copier machines, Nike for sports apparel) and make the connection with the product or service in the mind of the consumer. not just describe the product or service.
Purely generic marks can never be registered. Arbitrary and fanciful marks are preferred by examiners. In between, you have marks that are suggestive or descriptive (the dry cleaners, dentists of the world). There are shades of gray in between so you should engage with an attorney early in the process of selecting a brand or portfolio of brands so that you can save in time and money, and avoid creating products, promotional material, etc. bearing a brand that won*t have any protection in the jurisdictions you are selling.