Does your business have a unique slogan? Did you create a special logo for your front sign? How do you protect these special trademarks from being used by another business?
A trademark is a name, design or slogan that distinguishes your business from your competitors. Success often breeds imitation, and it’s important to protect the unique brand of your business from being copied by those who want to divert your customers and capitalize on your success.
One way to protect a business is to register the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Federal registration will put a business on a national list, known as the Principle Register, and will give that business exclusive ownership of the mark. It also notifies any future users that the mark is unavailable, provides legal protection in an infringement lawsuit, and allows for the official use of the federal trademark symbol ® to be placed after the brand name.
Should You Register?
Occasionally, it’s unnecessary to register a trademark. Unregistered trademarks are protected under “common law” rights. This means that even if another business files an application with the USPTO for your trademark, the rights belong to the business that first used the trademark in commerce. If your business has gone years and years without a problem of competitors imitating the brand, it may not be necessary to bother with the paperwork and the cost of registration.
Nolo’s Guide to Trademarks offers several instances where it would be useful to register a trademark with the USPTO. For example, it would be beneficial to register your trademark if:
- Your business crosses state lines
- You plan to expand on a national level
- You are selling a retail product
- You’re concerned that another business will imitate your brand name
Trademarks are an important piece to the success of any business. Consider what actions you need to take, if any, to protect your trademark.