A trademark is one of the business properties you should so much protect. They help you to stand out from your competition by defining your business position. Trademarks can include slogans, color combinations, holograms, patterns, sounds, and other marks that can be protected.
Even so, you should understand the principles that govern the choice and use of trademarks. You can then decide the value of your trademark in the business. Depending on your business model and stage, trademark value may vary or be negligible. But your business profile needs to highlight your trademark so that you can prevent other people from misusing it.
These are seven of the most important things you should note about trademarking your business.
1. Find a Trademark Attorney
Business means business. In all aspects where you will need to follow federal laws, you must find an attorney to represent your brand. Trademark attorneys will help you in the process of trademark registration. They can as well advise you on how to trademark a phrase and what you can do to ensure that your trademark plays its full potential in your business.
Therefore, before you even begin registering your business, find a business trademark attorney. You want to work with someone friendly to guide you on a step-by-step process as a toddler learning to stand and take his first steps in walking.
However, the attorney should also have a solid background on matters regarding trademarks and their use. Therefore, your search is not going to be simple, but a process.
2. Always Research Your Trademark Before Registering
Apart from symbols, sounds, and colors, most businesses use a combination of words (phrases) to trademark their businesses. Whatever the choice – and you should use most of them – you need to be sure that you are not infringing someone else’s intellectual property.
A trademark search helps you to determine whether or not the trademark you have in mind is in use by another business.
It, therefore, translates that the search for a trademark should begin before settling for a business name and slogan that will drive your business. You do not want to fall on the offensive side of the law when people start to recognize your brand.
3. Register Your Trademark as Soon as Possible
After searching for a trademark, it is vital to register it and prevent other people from using it. However, before registration, you can keep using it – but without any protection by the laws. A claimed trademark can be represented by “™” in all dealings. This symbol allows you to associate a trademark to your brand, as long as no one else claims it. But being the first user does not make you the legal owner of the mark.
Registering your brand trademark helps you secure your trademark from other users without proper association to your brand. Once registers, you can use the symbol ®️ with the trademark name. It is only through the registration, and the use of the “Registered” sign, that you can prove that you are the legal owner of the trademark.
4. Choose the Right Type of Trademark
Picking a trademark may seem easy until you discover that your choice may have some negative impact on your brand. To make this clear, there are five types of trademarks, defined by their strength. The one you use determines how much the law recognizes and protects it.
Fanciful marks are the “strongest” trademarks. These types of marks use words that have no definitive meaning. That is where most companies got theirs from – like Google (before it entered the dictionary as a verb), Moodle (the popular LMS), and Forbes. The other only choice you have is to use arbitrary marks. These types of marks use words or phrases that do not necessarily define your business domain – like Apple.
The weak trademarks cannot be protected because you cannot fully prevent anyone from using such marks or words to describe their businesses. Suggestive marks define product quality (like Keep it Hot – Thermos) while descriptive marks give details about your products.
Words like “Edible Raw” can describe your carrots, but they might not be the best fit. I do not think that we should even talk about generic names or marks – which are the names of your products. You cannot, in any way, protect the word “Shoes” from the use of other companies. While some trademarks may seem ideal from the marketing point of view, they may not be the choice when thinking about protecting them.
5. Assign Values to Your Trademarks
The trademark you register is not a decoration for your business. A registered trademark is an intellectual property, which is valued as an intangible asset. You may not notice why you should value the trademark, but sooner or later, while on your business journey, you will require the valuation.
For instance, in the case of business merge or transfer, you would want to treat the trademark as a separate asset from the business, and you will need to price it before transfer. Assuming that a business becomes insolvent, the trademark can bail out the owner before liquidation. Any interested party can buy the trademark for their business before you close down and lose its value.
At the early stages of your business, when it is robust, you can assign a value to your trademark. You will need to work with intellectual property experts to evaluate the mark and assign its value.
6. Nothing Like International Trademarks
You might want to run a brand that trades across borders. That is wonderful. But the trademarks you are going to use to run the business are subject to various laws around the world. Each jurisdiction has its laws regarding intellectual property. And one trademark registration does not offer you protection in another region or country.
You will need to register your trademark in the other countries you intend to trade. For this reason, you will want to know how much expansion you expect in the future before choosing and registering a trademark. Find out if the mark you need is registered in other regions you want to do business before registration.
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7. Do not Register a trademark You Do not Intend to Use
The trademark owner has full rights to the use of the image, sound, sign, word or any mark for business purposes. You, therefore, need to use your trademark after registration. Although trademarks have no expiry date, the law requires that the owners keep them in use. And you must provide proof that the mark is still in use.
Depending on your jurisdiction, the interval in which you must submit a declaration about your use of the trademark may vary. In the US, for example, you must file the declaration after ten years and show proof that your trademark is in use in line with the business.
For this reason, you may not want to register a trademark for fun. In case you are unsure about the future of your business, you can use the ™ (unregistered) form of the mark. Then you can register it later when you have a clear direction. And no, I am not contradicting with point #3. It all depends on your preparation.
A trademark is an intellectual property. You can decide to protect its use by registering it against your brand. Unregistered trademarks can still be in use, but you cannot prevent anyone from using the same mark in business in the same industry as you. The value of a trademark depends on the business it is associated with at the time of its registration, and it loses value when the business collapses.
Image Credit: about trademarks by Pixabay
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