Small Business Legal: Protect Your Trademark

The world of business is no picnic. Companies start up, founder, and die every single day, due in no small part to the fact that there are so many of them. With legions of competitors all vying for a share of the same pie, it’s understandable that people passionately protect what’s theirs. This is true of physical property of course, but it’s just as true of ideas, processes, and designs. “Intellectual property” is worth fighting for in the business world, and if you’re just starting up a company of your own, you need to understand how you can best protect yourself against idea thieves. You also need to know how to avoid being one yourself.

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So what’s in a name? Well, a name, logo, slogan, or color scheme are all part of your brand. Your brand is the sum total of all your marketing efforts, seen through the lens of the consumer. People make purchasing decisions based on a brand’s reputation. If the rumors they’ve heard about a brand are spotty, they’ll be less likely to buy from that store or company. When a competitor borrows something that’s intimately associated with your brand (like a logo, name, etc.), your message gets confused. The consumer will follow suit, and you can bet that you’ll have a front-row seat to the downfall of your profits. So even though it involves a little extra work on the front end, putting safeguards in place around your intellectual property is worth it.

For example, did you know that you can pay for a trademark research report? This query will check your proposed company name, slogan, logo, and color scheme against those already listed on the national registry. The report is quite thorough and will flag anything that looks like it could cause trouble for you later on. And though it would be frustrating to find that some business owner three states away came up with the same company name three years ago, you’ll be glad that you avoided any potential legal scuffles by doing a little research up front.

If your start-up has the necessary resources, you can also consider enlisting the services of a trademark lawyer. He or she will be able to assess the risks associated with your proposed design, and you’ll be able to make a better trademark decision as a result. It may be another cost you weren’t planning on, but hiring a lawyer will still be cheaper than getting sued by another company.

Once you’ve done your research, you can file for trademark protection with the USPTO. Doing this costs a few hundred dollars, but your trademark will appear on a federal registry. In essence, you’re saying “dibs!” to your proposed trademark.

When your customers see your logo, you don’t want them to question what they’re seeing. So it’s worth it to spend a little extra time and money to protect your brand.

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