So, you’ve decided to start a new business or maybe you’ve been in business for a while. Maybe you’ve just come up with a fantastic idea for a new “App”. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar or completely online business, you’re probably asking yourself “Do I really need to trademark my business name?” It can seem unnecessary to go through the long, tedious process and cost of trademarking. You may even think that other entrepreneurs and creators would be courteous enough to not use the name or logo that you meticulously crafted – they’d see your use and just choose a different name or logo, right? Unfortunately, not everyone is so considerate.
Most business owners and entrepreneurs understand the importance of a business name to their branding. In fact, your business name and logo are some of your company’s most valuable assets. Your carefully crafted name becomes a symbol of your business’ reputation. So, how can you stop others from using your name and protect your hard work and company’s goodwill? One important measure to take is to apply for trademark registration. Many attorneys say that trademark registration isn’t always necessary, and registration necessity truly depends the geographic scope of your business and whether you have the time and money to file a trademark application. But, in today’s day and age, whether you’re a small, local storefront, or a completely online nation-wide service, trademark registration is a valuable investment.
Just imagine, one day your small mom-and-pop dessert store is visited by a tourist who happens to be a popular food blogger. After tasting your delicious treats, this blogger decides to write an article about you. The next day you’re inundated with calls and orders, and your small one-page website crashes from the amount of visitors. Lo and behold, stores, using your mom-and-pop name, are appearing all over the nation, marketing goods that are similar but of a different quality than your own. The same could happen with a purely online store, or even more likely, with the newest brilliant “App” idea. Wouldn’t it be a shame to see this happen to your business? What if consumers believe your company is affiliated with those knockoff products? All of the time and effort you devoted to developing your business, brand and goodwill would be damaged. When you think about the potential risk of a situation like this occurring, the cost of trademarking seems minimal.
DBA, Limited partnership, LLC, Corporation…
Now, you may be asking, “I’ve already registered my business name with the state government, doesn’t that protect me?” Though state business registration is important, it only applies to the state where you register. It may stop another company from registering the exact same name in the same state, but it does not give you formal ownership rights over a name or protect you outside of the state.
Trademark Registration Benefits
Federal trademark registration, on the other hand, gives you the exclusive right to use your business name nationwide in connection with the goods and services you’ve identified in your application and allows you to take swift action and enforce your trademark rights by filing a lawsuit in federal court.
In addition to these benefits, you gain several other advantages, including:
- A record of ownership of the trademark, and a proven date of first use.
- A legal presumption that you own the trademark and can use it for the goods and services listed in your application.
- Right to use the registered trademark symbol ®
- U.S. registration creates some ease in registering your mark internationally.
Registration also makes your mark visible to anyone doing a trademark search, thereby decreasing the likelihood that another will use it.
But, What About Common Law Rights?
At this point, you may be thinking, “don’t I have trademark rights to stop infringing activity before I even apply for registration?” Yes, you do. You can claim ownership of your trademark without officially registering it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), however, your rights are limited to the geographic regions where your mark is used. So, those rights wouldn’t be enforceable against a competitor who pops up in a region where you were considering expanding to, but had yet to do so.
So, When Is It a Good Time to Start the Trademark Registration Process?
Though the trademark registration process can be started at any stage, it’s best to start it in the very early stages of your business by filing an “intent-to-use” application. This initiation of the registration process can ensure that your business name is cleared for use. A significant part of the trademark application process includes a trademark search, wherein research is conducted on existing and pending trademarks to ensure that your name isn’t infringing on an established mark. The trademark search process not only increases the likelihood of a successful application, but prevents you from investing time, effort, and money into marketing a brand that may later be challenged by an existing competitor.
It is important to note that your name does not need to identical to an existing trademark in order to be considered infringing, it simply needs to be close enough to be considered confusingly similar to a competitor offering similar products or services. The entire process from search to complete registration can take 10 months to a year (potentially longer). Therefore, if you wait to trademark your name until after your business has launched, or until someone begins infringing on your name, you may find yourself in the long and expensive process of opposing or canceling an existing mark, or be in an odd position of waiting for registration to complete before you can have an enforceable right to stop infringing activity.
By filing a trademark application as early as possible in your business development process, you’re protecting not only your name but the hard work you will, or already have, put into building goodwill.
Check back soon for more articles – including:
“What kind of Names Can Be Trademarked?”
“Trademarks: The Process from Search to Registration”
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Law Offices of Reena Sehgal. or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.