A trademark is a word, symbol or phrase used to identify and distinguish one’s particular goods and services. At times, a trademark can extend to other distinguishing features such as color or packaging. Trademark registration is not required to protect your goods or services; however, clients who choose to work with us to register their trademarks often tell us registration is one of the best returns on investment they have made. A trademark enhances business value by protecting your brand and its associated goodwill. If done correctly, customers will associate your goods and services with something positive merely by the sight of your trademarked name, logo or other distinguishing characteristic. Furthermore, in virtually every merger, acquisition or similar business sale, the name, logo and associated goodwill are a major force in dictating the sales price. Only upon registration are you allowed to attach the symbol “®” next to your trademark.
Trademark protection is an essential part of branding. We advise our clients to establish and market a name, logo, image, similar distinguishing features or some combination of these that will resonate in the mind of the potential consumer. Furthermore, in the internet age most businesses have websites, which are visible worldwide. Registering your trademark federally (and, depending upon your business model, in other countries), allows you to control how your goods and services are recognized and your business reputation is perceived. Post-registration protection and enforcement allows you to prevent others from diluting your trademark, benefitting from your business reputation and creating confusion in the marketplace. Further, certain remedies are only available to those who choose to protect their trademarks. We have seen many instances of well-intentioned business owners losing the ability to expand or enforce their brand because they did not register their trademark nor enforce their rights post-registration, or both.
A competent attorney is essential to ensure your trademark is properly registered both here and abroad, as the processes and requirements for registration differ depending on the country. Comprehensive searches to ascertain whether conflicting marks exist are crucial, and having an attorney’s advice on whether the trademark has some other flaw (for example, if the mark is weak due to descriptiveness) is a benefit you would not receive from an internet-based service. Each trademark application is fact-specific and should not be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. Responses from the United States Patent and Trademark Office can take many forms and a seasoned attorney will guide you to ensure proper communication and a better success rate of registration.
After registration, enforcement is critical. You should monitor your trademark to see if others are trying to use the same, or a substantially similar, mark in any manner. By registering your trademark, your odds of stopping such infringing uses is increased, the legal remedies available to you to pursue are increased and, hopefully, the registration serves to discourage others from using your asset by advising them of your decision to protect your rights. Indeed, registration helps to weaken a claim by an infringing user who insists they had no knowledge of your mark. Of course, enforcement can mean many things – policing the internet and locations where your goods are sold, demand letters, internet-based resolution tribunals, alternative dispute resolution or going to court – in each instance, you should consult with a competent attorney.
We encourage our clients to register their trademarks. The cost is relatively low and the rights and goodwill are worth the investment. If you have any questions regarding the process, Titus Brueckner & Levine PLC attorneys are experienced in intellectual property registration, enforcement and litigation.