Find out the basics and a few tips to help you decide whether you should file for trademark registration.
Dear reader: if you’re here, that means you really, really care about your business and you’ve probably put a lot of work into your brand. I love that and I am so here for it!
Maybe you’ve thought about trademarking your brand, but you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you’ve heard people say it’s not necessary, because parts of your brand (like your logo or your brand name) are protected by “common law” even if you don’t actually file for a trademark with the federal government.
I’m here to give you the facts to help you decide whether or not you’d like to file for that trademark, but you should know: I 100% recommend it in order to protect yourself and your business and save you time and money. Read on to find out why.
A quick refresher before we get into the nitty gritty: if you’ve already read this blog post, you’ll remember that a trademark is something that identifies and distinguishes your brand from someone else’s, like a symbol, design, word, or phrase (for example, a logo).
Trademarks are registered through the US Trademark and Patents Office (USPTO).
I told you it would be quick. Okay, Let’s get to it!
1. You are not legally required to register your trademark, but...
It is not legally necessary to register a trademark, and if you’ve heard people say your brand is protected or governed by “common law”, they’re technically correct.
If you have been using your brand name in business, you do have a little bit of protection. The downfall is that, unlike registered trademarks, unregistered trademarks require a bit more work on your part if someone starts infringing on your mark. For example, say you’ve been using the brand name “ABC Soaps”. Another business has started a soap business by the same name. If you want to stop that business from using the same name, you have to prove that the name is ultimately yours, and that you had it first. If they’ve already gone through the process of federally registering their brand name, you might not have an easy time of it.
2. Filing for a trademark gives you superpowers
Okay, not really superpowers, but in the eyes of the law, you’re going to have some super strength. Filing for and ultimately registering your trademark, whether it be your logo, your brand name, your slogan, what have you, gives you the upper hand not only in the market, but also in the event you should ever face legal proceedings.
When you register your trademark, you’re telling the world, “this is me!” and people will come to recognize you as an authoritative brand. It sets you apart from your competitors and establishes you as a trusted source in the minds of consumers.
Should you ever be sued for trademark infringement, you’ll have the USPTO and their records behind you to prove you’re registered and that you’ve done the necessary due diligence in order to become registered. If you ever find yourself in a position where you need to send a cease and desist letter to someone for trademark infringement (or if it goes further than just a letter), you’ll be in a strong position to take them on legally.
3. The consequences of not filing for a trademark are… not fun
There are some pretty brutal examples of trademark infringement out there. In a case between Louis Vuitton (the luxury designer brand) and Louis Vuiton Dak (a South Korean chicken restaurant), the latter was sued by the former over use of their eerily similar name and logo. In the end, the court ruled in favor of Louis Vuitton, and the fried chicken restaurant was fined $14.5 million.
If the restaurant’s proprietors had filed for a trademark, they would have found out quite quickly that their chosen mark would not have been approved, as it would have been too similar to the brand Louis Vuitton. The easy and simple act of filing for a trademark could have saved them $14.5 million.
Now, imagine you’re a small business owner (maybe you are). You didn’t register your trademark, but you’ve been using that mark for about a year. You receive a cease and desist letter in the mail from a company requesting you to stop using that mark or else face legal action. Now all of the work you’ve put into your brand: late night hours, difficult decisions, brainstorming, creating… they’re all for nothing, because you have to completely rebrand. That would be a horrific tragedy.
For small business owners and solopreneurs especially, registering your trademarks is one of the smartest steps you can take to protect yourself and your business. Most often, small businesses don’t have legal departments that can easily take care of legal issues like trademark infringement. It will just be the business owner (just like you!) that would have to handle not only the stress of day-to-day business tasks but the burden of a legal battle. To save yourself time, money, and headaches down the road, I truly recommend registering any mark you intend on using with the USPTO.
Any costs you’ll have to bear to file the trademark will likely pale in comparison to the cost of legal proceedings (and damages if you lose). Imagine being saddled with millions of dollars worth of damages after only a year of being in business!
Filing for your trademark can be a little tricky, so it’s good to have help. The Brand Protection Package can give you a hand with all the paperwork and tough legal stuff.
When you choose to register your trademark using the Brand Protection Package, I’ll do the heavy lifting. You’ll get a lawyer (me!) who performs a comprehensive search of the USPTO database. These kinds of searches are important because other businesses may have protected legal rights in trademarks that are similar to your chosen mark, even though they’re not registered with the USPTO. These unregistered trademarks won’t appear in the USPTO database, but could still prevent you from using your chosen mark even if the USPTO registers your mark.
You’ll also get:
- a FREE consultation;
- preparation and filing of one trademark application with the USPTO;
- trademark application monitoring and updates;
- responses to every Office Action from the USPTO;
- unlimited email support during the application process;
- preparation and filing of a statement of use and extension requests if required;
- a trademark registration certificate; and
- guidance on how to maintain and protect your trademark!
It can sometimes take around 5 months for the USPTO to examine your application and over 12 months for registration after filing—imagine waiting all that time just to find out your application has been denied. When you use the Brand Protection Package, you’ll be sure due diligence has been done so that you get your mark registered as soon as possible.
If you are ready (and need a bit of help), click here to start the process with a totally free consultation.