Protect Your Brand
The name and image (or logo) that represents your product, service or company relays what you do, how you do it and your reputation. It’s part of your company’s intellectual property. In our competitive, worldwide marketplace, it’s becoming more difficult to develop a unique brand. So when you do, you’d better protect it.
The Internet has made it more challenging.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to develop a unique brand name. If your company will have an online presence, they are effectively competing nationwide, even it is a geographically local business, such as a law firm or retail shop. While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) still grants naming rights geographically and by business category, you will still need a Web address that is ideally your company name. For that reason, when considering name availability, Gerard Marketing Group will do a Web address search first.
Why bother registering.
The legal name for your logo or brand is a “trademark.” A trademark is defined as “a distinctive sign or indicator to identify that the products or services originate from a particular source.” A trademark consists of your company name and it’s visual treatment, or logo.
At Gerard Marketing, when we develop a new brand name for our clients, we do an initial search with the USPTO files. Trademarks are registered by state or region and within certain business categories. The point of registering a trademark is to define the owner of the name and mark in a product category to avoid consumer confusion. I have worked with clients and even other advertising agencies who have not registered their brand name(s), either because they did not know they should or didn’t deem it necessary. If you don’t register and begin operating under a name, no one is going to come after you. But, if someone else enters the market they will not know your company exists if it is not registered. They may then register and own the same or a very similar name that may cause consumer confusion. In this case, the entity who used the name first in the marketplace, regardless of registration, legally has rights to the name; however, you will spend much more time and money defending your ownership than if it were registered.
How painful is it?
It is seamless for Gerard Marketing Group clients. We typically register the name for our clients. Registration begins with a search, then paperwork and then a process of review by other lawyers to ensure it does not encroach upon any other brands out there. The process can span a long time, so the mark you apply to your logo will change, depending upon where it is in the registration process.
What do the marks mean?
There are marks to use on unregistered trademarks until they have cleared the registration process to include:
™ A mark used to promote a brand or brand goods/products
℠ A mark used to promote brand services
Once a mark is registered and approved by the USPTO a ® signifies it is a registered trademark.
The owner of a registered trademark may commence legal proceedings for trademark infringement to prevent unauthorized use of that trademark. However, registration is not required. The owner of a common law, or unregistered, trademark may also file suit, but an unregistered mark may be protectable only within the geographical area within which it has been used or in geographical areas into which it may be reasonably expected to expand.
If you currently have an unregistered trademark, it would be smart to pursue getting it registered. As the marketplace continues to become more global, the fight for a great name in any category will become increasingly difficult.