In 2017, people registered an estimated 43.2 million active trademarks at 138 Trademark Offices around the world. And that represents an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to 2016 data. Unfortunately, trademark infringement continues to increase as well. In a 2018 survey of 352 trademark professionals working in the US and western Europe, 81% said they experienced trademark infringement. So data shows a 74% increase compared to 2017.
Trademark Protection Tool
Small Business Trends emailed Trademark.com to find out where entrepreneurs “go wrong” if infringed upon. And how timeliness is crucial in those situations. Trademark.com says it provides an affordable and user-friendly trademark protection tool. The tool includes handy alert features used by brands of all sizes.
Mara Trumbour is the Executive Product Owner of Trademark.com. Trumbour possesses extensive experience with intellectual property solutions. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, she is responsible for the development and execution of Trademark.com’s business strategy. She holds an MBA with a concentration in marketing from Bentley University.
Trademark Protection: What You Must Know
Small Business Trends: Securing a trademark can be a confusing process to navigate. Let’s discuss big misconceptions about trademarks.
Mara Trumbour: One common misunderstanding is that owning a website domain means you own a trademark. This is false. Despite owning a website domain, entrepreneurs still need to register their trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to guarantee ownership.
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Additionally, many small business owners assume that once they’ve officially secured their trademark via the USPTO, their business is now protected from trademark infringement. They assume they’re all set and fully protected.
Monitoring your mark is arguably almost more important than registering. You must constantly monitor your trademark for potential copycats to ensure no one else secures a mark which may lead to confusion around your business. Or someone else benefiting from the brand equity you’ve built.
Some entrepreneurs assume that the USPTO will police your mark for you to ensure it is not violated. Which they will not. While the USPTO will attempt to ensure no one receives registrations for a similar mark, it’s ultimately up to you to monitor your trademark and keep a look out for any copycats attempting to file.
What Your Business Can Do About Trademark Infringement
Small Business Trends: Oh that one sounds major. So if an entrepreneur does find another business infringing on their trademark, what can they do?
Mara Trumbour: If a business owner has a trademark and detects another brand attempting to register a mark that is the same or confusingly similar, they should take quick action. In the U.S., companies only have 30 days to formally oppose a conflicting trademark with the USPTO, so it’s imperative to consistently monitor and work fast. Tools like Trademark.com can assist small business owners in this process. With our trademark monitoring service, small business owners get two alerts: an “early warning” right when an application is filed with the USPTO for a potentially problematic mark, and a second “last chance” notice when the trademark is published for opposition — the last step before it is successfully registered. This gives you ample time to take action, and to potentially stop copycats in their tracks with more conservative and generally less expensive enforcement measures.
Looking Out For These Trademark Protection Pitfalls
Small Business Trends: What are some pitfalls of not doing things the proper way?
Mara Trumbour: Not properly securing a trademark can be very risky and even detrimental to your business or brand. However, even with a secured trademark, you still need to monitor your mark to ensure total protection. Registering a mark and not protecting it can be just as risky, if not more risky than not registering at all.
Picture this — you build a successful business and develop a customer base that recognizes your brand and another entrepreneur swoops in and registers your mark (if yours is not secured) or a confusingly similar mark (even if yours is secured). All your blood, sweat and tears are potentially down the drain due to them infringing on your business and stealing the brand equity you’ve worked so hard to build. This could lead down the treacherous path of trademark infringement, forcing you to face expensive litigations and even costly rebranding. Unfortunately, small business owners don’t always see, or aren’t always aware, of these high-cost risks.
One Tool to Help You Protect Your Trademark More Effectively
Small Business Trends: When is it helpful to consider using Trademark.com?
Mara Trumbour: Trademark.com can help with the trademark process from the very start. Guiding entrepreneurs on ways to determine the availability of their desired mark before applying. Once you’re ready to register, Trademark.com can continue assisting throughout the entire process. Serving as an all-in-one trademark registration, protection and watch tool, we give small business owners peace-of-mind when it comes to their mark(s). At an affordable rate, entrepreneurs can monitor up to five marks for copycat activity, determine the availability of their desired mark before applying, and secure help filing their trademark applications with the USPTO. We make the ins-and-outs of trademark best practices more accessible with a resource library designed specifically for small business owners.