A million dollar mansion is easy to value, but how about the name of your brand or the works you create? In today’s world, that’s where most of the value lies. Think about it…do people buy Nike products because they make clothes with the best materials at the lowest cost? No, they buy the check mark. And I know people can’t be buying the Yeezys for their looks.
Some of the biggest companies out there carry most of their value in intangible property (including patents, trademarks, and stocks). So now that you have started building a successful brand, how do you protect it? Trademark is the key part.
People recognize a brand by its unique mark. This can include a name, a sound, or believe it or not, in rare circumstances your trademark can be a smell. If you have put in the hard work to have people associate your brand (including your company name and slogan) with a great product or service, you should make sure you have maximum protection for it. For a brand associated with a service, you would get a service mark which is the same concept as a trademark but called by a different name.
While you get some protections just by using your brand in connection with the sale of your good or service (so long as no one else is already using the same brand in a similar or related field), there are advantages to registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Here are three of them:
1. Confusingly similar marks cannot be registered. Although courts have standards as to what is “confusingly similar” it can still be an elusive determination to make. Preventing such confusing and competing marks from being registered by registering yours first can save a lot of time, money and energy down the road.
2. Your mark gets nationwide priority as of the filing date. The problem with not registering your mark is that you only get the common law protection in the limited geographic reason your product or service is sold in. If there is a confusingly similar mark being used by someone else you have to debate with them about who was where first. It’s a lot like Who’s on First, except you’re paying attorneys the entire time. Instead, register and save yourself the headache by getting nationwide priority when you file.
3. Registration gives constructive notice of ownership. Sometimes those who use another person’s trademark try to use the defense that they did not know about your trademark and they were using their similar mark in good faith. Registration eliminates that argument because everyone is on notice that you own the mark since it is on the United States Patent and Trade Mark Office’s publicly accessible database.
Additional trademarks resource: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics