By finding this article you are taking the first step in turning your business into a legally-protected brand. Great job! Many of the tools that businesses use to market themselves—legally called “marks”—can be protected by a trademark, including the business’s name, logo, slogan, and even product lines. Here are some tips to help you start protecting your brand.
Choose a Unique Name for your Business that can be Protected by Trademark
First thing’s first: It is important to choose a name for your business and product lines that can be protected by a federal or state trademark, because ultimately the goal should be to own your brand. If you start a business using a name or mark that someone in your industry is already using, it could cause your business a major, and often detrimental, setback if they decide to bring a lawsuit against you. Before you settle on a name for your business and invest heavily in marketing, Virgo Law recommends that you have a trademark attorney conduct a thorough search of your mark.
For your name to be trademarked, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) requires it to be distinct from the other businesses in your industry. The USPTO will likely reject your application if:
- There’s a likelihood that your mark would cause consumers to confuse your business with someone else’s business.
- Your name only has common generic words that describe what your business does or its geographical location. The USPTO doesn’t like names like this because they aren’t distinct enough to justify trademark rights.
For more information on choosing a unique and protectable name for your business, check out Virgo Law ’s (Choosing a Name for your Business that’s Protectable by Trademark)!
Use The Unregistered Trademark Symbol
Even if you haven’t registered your trademark yet, you should still always use the “™” symbol when displaying it. This notifies others that you are claiming ownership of your mark. It also informs the government that you are taking the first step to protect your mark, which may help you secure state or federal trademark protection.
Keep Records of First Use
When it comes to unregistered marks, the early bird gets the worm (for the most part, at least). Unregistered trademark rights are based on priority, so keep records of when you first begin using your mark in connection with your products or services.
- If you discover that someone else is using an identical or confusingly similar trademark in your area, you’ll need to be able to show that you were using your trademark before they were using theirs.
But keep in mind that your unregistered trademark only has protection in the immediate geographical area where you do business. As your business continues to expand, it will become harder and harder to monitor others using similar marks in your industry, so reach out to a trademark attorney to get your mark registered as soon as possible!
Watch Out for Scams
There are scammers out there—typically in the form of private companies—that may try to take advantage of business owners that don’t have a complete understanding of the trademarking process, so keep your eyes peeled and don’t fall for their tricks! Remember that the USPTO rejects trademarks filed by anyone other than a U.S. attorney.
A Virgo Law attorney would love to speak with you about building and protecting your brand! Complete our intake form to begin working with an attorney.