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Your brand is your company’s most valuable asset. The strength of your brand directly impacts how likely someone is to purchase from you again and how much they’re willing to pay for your services or products. A strong brand also makes it easier for you to enter new markets, attract investors, and expand your business. A trademark is one of the primary ways that businesses protect their brands. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or even a smell that identifies the source of goods or services and distinguishes them from similar offerings in the same market. If another business is using a mark similar to yours in such a way that would mislead consumers, you may have grounds to file a trademark registration with the applicable government agency.
What are the benefits of registering a trademark?
A trademark registration makes it easier to defend your brand in court and gives you the right to damages if someone else is using a similar mark. This means you’re less likely to lose market share to copycat products and you can more easily stop others from using your brand. If you do end up in court, a registered trademark gives you an advantage because you don’t have to prove that you were damaged by the other person’s actions. Instead, the other party has to prove that their actions don’t cause any harm to your brand. A registered trademark also gives you the right to use the ® symbol, which puts consumers on notice that you’ve officially claimed the mark and gives you extra leverage to negotiate with potential partners or licensees.
Things to consider before registering a trademark
Before you rush out to file a trademark registration, consider whether the mark is actually worth protecting. There are a few factors you should take into account. First, is your mark unique and original? If not, you may be able to obtain a trademark by adopting the mark as your own and using it in the marketplace. This is called “acquiring a protectable trademark.” It may also be possible to register a descriptive mark that describes a product feature or function, such as “green cleaning services.” You also want to make sure that your mark is not overly generic. “Computer repair,” for example, is not a strong enough mark to warrant trademark protection. You’ll have a better chance if your mark is specific or fanciful (e.g., “Byte Me Computer Repair”).
How to register a trademark
If you decide to register a trademark, you can do so either with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or with your state’s trademark office. The process is generally similar for both, although there are important differences between federal and state trademark registration. Federal registration is more expensive, but it offers the added benefit of a wider reach. State trademark registration is less expensive, but it is valid only in the state where you apply. A federal trademark registration, in contrast, is valid throughout the entire country. This means that you don’t have to register every mark in every state, which can save you considerable time and money.
Common mistakes to avoid when registering a trademark
Make sure that you’re actually registering the right mark. The name or logo you intend to trademark should be clear in the application. Be specific, but don’t go overboard. The USPTO recommends that you keep your application to one page. This makes the process less expensive and easier to navigate. If you’re applying through the state trademark office, be sure to include all of the information required by your specific office. If you’re applying with the USPTO, you’ll have to provide a description of the goods or services you’re offering. You should also include a drawing of your mark, if possible.
Your brand represents your company’s promise to customers and is one of the primary ways that you interact with your customers and potential clients. A consistent and recognizable brand instantly connects you with your customers, making it easier for them to trust you and build relationships with your company. If you want to protect and grow your brand, it’s important to invest in protecting your trademark. Trademark registration gives you the legal basis you need to challenge copycats who misappropriate your brand. For best results, start the trademark registration process as early as possible, even if you have not yet officially launched your business or product. You can file an application for an “intent to use” trademark before you are actually using the mark in commerce.