Trademarks, Brands and Business Protection
This article originally appeared at: https://www.sarahsshepard.com/blog/tm-and-bizprotection
When starting a new business, there’s a lot you need to know . For example, how trademarks, brands, and business protection all correlate.
There are so many new small businesses currently operating without a trademark. Not realizing how vulnerable this leaves them to other companies stealing their brand’s identity and running to the bank with it.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how trademarks can offer protection for your brand and business, so you can get a better understanding of their importance.
Read on to learn more.
What Does a Trademark Protect Exactly? A trademark or service mark protects the intellectual property involved in your business’s symbols, colors, design, schemes, taglines used to discern your brand identity.
In terms of protection, a trademark is what legally stops other businesses or individuals from using your trademarked goods or services to sell their own goods or services. This protection even goes as far as to prevent others from using a trademark or service mark that’s considered to be “confusingly similar” to yours — even if it’s not the same.
Think of it this way: No other candy brand can use Reese’s distinct orange color on their wrappers. So if someone out there comes up with a jingle that sounds just like the “meow mix” tone, they’ll likely be denied IP protection for it. Or worse — they can even be sued for infringement.
What’s Not Covered by a Trademark? Trademarks are limited to the criteria mentioned above that circulate around your brand’s identity. Therefore, it won’t cover things like ideas, inventions, innovations, writings, architectural plans, software, scientific instructions, and things of that nature.
It should also be noted that ideas can’t necessarily be protected because they’re intangible “items” that only secrecy can protect. You can write down your thoughts, but they cannot be trademarked. Depending on the concept, and unless they’re actionable, such as a set of technological instructions, they may not even be able to get copyright or patent protection.
For example, once you launch your business website, the idea behind the design will no longer be a secret or a plan. It’ll be out in the open for all to see and draw inspiration from. You can’t trademark your website’s layout — however, you can trademark the brand identity on display throughout your website.
What it Means to Trademark Your Brand Many budding entrepreneurs tend to confuse trademarks with trade names. While the two have at least seven out of nine letters in common, that’s the extent of their similarities.
A trade name, also sometimes referred to as an assumed name , is essentially the name of your business. For example, a corporation (Corp or Inc.) or a limited liability company (LLC) may use a trade name or legal entity name.
Additionally, registering your trade name won’t necessarily protect it from someone else naming their business the same thing. Trademarking your business name, on the other hand, will prevent anyone else from using it in the same context that might confuse customers.
For example, let’s say you choose to form your business entity under the name “Good Eats and More, Inc.” but choose to call your storefront “Sandy’s Good Eats.” The only thing you can do to keep the brand name “Sandy’s Good Eats” safe is to trademark it.
“Good Eats and More, Inc.” will have its own protections as a state law the registered entity, but those protections are vastly different.
So, when you trademark your brand — its name, symbols, etc. — you’re protecting your brand identity and the how and what people associate with it.
What Are the Advantages of Trademarking Your Business Name? Registering for a federal trademark comes with a rather impressive list of advantages, including the following:
Protection Against Infringement As a business owner, you’ll need to maintain control of your brand — as in not allowing other businesses to trespass on your turf in terms of copying your logos and names for competing products or services.
With a registered trademark, anyone that attempts to copy and capitalize off of your brand, which would create confusion among customers, could be legally found to infring e upon your trademark.
Nationwide Validity When you have a registered trademark or service mark here in the United States, you also receive nationwide validity and IP protection for that mark.
That means you’ll have protection against infringement in all 50 states, whereas simply having a registered business name carries no weight outside of the state you’re registered in. This also means you would be able to expand out of state without necessarily having to worry about infringing on another business’s brand.
It’s an Asset that can Increase in Value Some of the business purchases you make won’t increase in value over time. This is because they’re merely investments, not assets.
Your trademark, however, may increase in value over time as your business continues to grow, making it your greatest asset. This means if you ever plan to sell your business, you’ll be able to offer it up at a higher value because of the brand recognition to make it worth the buyer’s while.
Additionally, investors typically require that a business have a trademark before handing over large sums of money to guarantee protection and security.
It Helps People Identify You Most people recognize their favorite brands simply by their symbols. But, of course, in today’s internet-driven world, the fight for visibility has become a seriously competitive sport.
Having a solid trademark will help your brand stand apart from the others. It’ll allow your customer base to easily recognize your products or services. Even if they don’t remember your brand’s name at first, they’ll remember your colors, symbols, or theme song.
We cannot stress enough the importance of a trademark for many businesses. Regardless of whether you believe you’ll become an internationally recognized brand, it’s necessary to protect your brand’s identity as soon as possible.
Call us today to schedule an appointment with Sarah S. Shepard or another experienced Huntsville trademark attorney. We can help you protect your business’s intellectual property right away.