What Every Business Owner Should Know About Trademarks





Getting trademark protectionImagine spending countless hours coming up with a creative name and logo for your new product or service or business. Then imagine using that name and logo over time, perhaps years, building up brand recognition.

Your logo is distinctive and recognizable, and becomes a symbol of the high quality your business delivers. The public comes to recognize your products or services by name and that they stand for quality. They count on getting that quality. Your business goes to great lengths to deliver it.

Your brand becomes so recognizable, that people automatically think of it when they need a product or service. They immediately visit your website or look for your brand in stores. Your brand “sells.”

One day it hits you: your brand name is one of the most valuable assets in your business.

Unfortunately, that fact has not escaped the notice of your competitors.

Seeing what a great thing you’ve got going, a competitor starts using a name and/or logo strikingly similar to your own. What would you do?

One of your first thoughts might be to try to stop that other company from unfairly cashing in on your business logo or product name.

Welcome to the wild world of trademarks. It’s precisely for the above scenario and others like it, that you need to know about trademark protection.

I’ve written a short primer on trademark issues and procedures in my latest article over at the Online Merchant Network: Understanding Why Trademarks Are Important.

8 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

8 Reactions

  1. Anita,

    Absolutely true. I’ve had a bad experience with one of my business names and learned these lessons teh hard way. I’ve filed teh trademark paperwork and patiently await word on another process.

  2. Anita Campbell

    David, yes, it can be a rude surprise to see someone else trying to cash in on your hard-earned brand.

    Trademark law can also help out in the opposite scenario, too. It can help you avoid inadvertantly misappropriating some other company’s mark, too. By doing a trademark search, you can avoid having your company get into hot water.

    Anita

  3. Small Business SEO - Terry Reeves

    Another aspect of trademark violation comes on the Internet. It is a common practice for your competitors to bid on a businesses name, products, services or anything else associated with a competitor. Usually a telephone call or letter to the offending web site/business will stop the practice.

    Contacting Google and complaining has also been effective in the past.

  4. Martin Lindeskog

    Anita,

    Great primer! I learned plenty of things. Could you have a “world” trademark? We want to protect our Blue Chip logotypes (Blue Chip Café & Blue Chip Business Ceneter) in several countries. First in Sweden and then in USA when we are ready to set up a “shop” over there.

    How is it with a slogan? We have been using “Biz & Buzz in a Cup.” for some time.

    I started the register process on LegalZoom.com.

  5. Martin Lindeskog

    … (Blue Chip Café & Blue Chip Business Center)

  6. Anita Campbell

    Hi Martin,

    No, there is no such thing as a world trademark.

    However, they have made it much easier to file in multiple jurisdictions, under an international agreement called the Madrid Protocol. Using the Madrid system you can file an application in one single spot, in order to have your trademark protected in up to 60 or more countries.

    You still must meet each country’s requirements for protecting a trademark.

    Also, you must first file a trademark registration application in your home country. Then you must follow your home country’s procedure to certify your application to the international authorities.

    For U.S. companies thinking of also filing internationally, start here: http://teasi.uspto.gov/.

    Anita

  7. Anita Campbell

    Hi Martin, regarding slogans and tag lines, the answer is: yes. As a general rule, they also can be trademarked.

    And even if you don’t file an official trademark registration, you should at least add the symbol “TM” following your slogan. Using the TM symbol is not the same as registering your trademark. However, it gives you a little protection and puts the world on notice that you are using it as a trademark and you consider it a unique slogan.

    Anita

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