Entrepreneurs creating a unique brand for their business may be asking, do I need a trademark?
In many instances, the answer is yes. Protecting your brand, logo, and tagline from being infringed upon is a must.
Don’t underestimate your trademark value by building a brand and not doing the work to ensure it is protected.
Anyone looking to go into business should first understand the laws. The moment you decide on a brand name, do a search with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Trademarks are not required, but they do provide protection for the work you put into getting your business recognized.
Whatever your product or service is, think long-term and the potential for national or international success.
Are you wondering when you need a trademark? Keep reading for everything you need to know.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a recognizable word, phrase, symbol, or design that is easily attributable to a business, product, person, etc. It’s how people identify your brand.
The golden arches of McDonald’s represent a logo trademark. A slogan example is Nike’s Just Do It! Television networks trademark their acronyms and businesses like Apple have trademarked their names.
Even though you have a recognizable trademark that identifies your brand, you still need to get approved through the USPTO.
Do I Need a Trademark for My Business?
No one knows how their business will be received by the public, but if you believe in your brand, the answer is yes.
It would be terrible to invest time, money, and even years into building a name logo, tagline, packaging, etc., only to learn the name is taken.
When you set-up a business, the name is only protected within your state. With a registered trademark, you’re protected everywhere.
The Kardashian and Jenner brands aggressively file trademarks. They have reached 716 filings, and the number is expected to grow.
What’s the Difference Between Copyrights, Fictitious Names, and Trademarks?
People asking about a trademark sometimes wonder the same about copyrights, fictitious names, and Doing Business As (DBA).
These are not the same and have different rules.
We have already covered trademarks, so here are brief descriptions of the other terms.
If you are the creator of artistic work such as a book, music, performance, movie, or any other creative work, you own the copyright.
Like trademarks, by registering with the government you receive legal protections.
The two differ in that you’re not trademarking the actual work, but you can the author’s name or company that produces the work.
A fictitious name is a name your business is known by although it is not the legal name of the entity.
You can list a fictitious name in your articles of incorporation.
A trademark will protect your fictitious name from being used in other states, whereas, a corporate filing is for the state where the business is headquartered.
Doing Business As
For all intent and purposes, a DBA is the same as a fictitious name.
You can register a DBA with the state and apply for a trademark.
Will I Need to Hire a Trademark Attorney?
If you are a foreign entity, you are required to have an attorney to file for a trademark. For businesses in the U.S. that need to register one, an attorney is optional.
Trademark filings are complicated and simple mistakes can cost money. It is advisable that when you decide if it is necessary for your brand that you seek legal counsel.
Is It Expensive?
Expensive is a relative termed that can only be defined by the value you place on something.
In terms of trademarks, if you plan to be around 10 years from now, it is not expensive. If your business is just a hobby, then yes, the time and cost may be seen as a lot.
One thing to keep in mind, if you build a successful brand and decide to sell down the road, the lack of a trademark can impact your sales price. This is crucial if several knockoff companies have formed off of your success.
Can I Trademark a Name Already in Use?
No, you cannot trademark a name already in use.
If the name you want is already attached to a business, you will need to negotiate with the owner to legally obtain the name.
A prime example is famed entertainer Beyoncé, who is engaged in a fierce trademark battle over the name Blue Ivy.
When they applied to trademark their daughter’s name, it was rejected because a wedding planner has an established business under that name.
How Long Does It Take to Get Approved?
Once you decide, expect the process to take from six months to a year.
In a more complicated case like the one mentioned above, the process can linger or years.
After your application is denied, you will have to decide if you want to fight or go in a different direction. This is why it is important to do a search when you are thinking about building a brand.
What If Someone Infringes on My Trademark?
Why get a trademark?
You can seek legal action if someone infringes on your brand.
First, you will need to determine how they infringed. Next, hire a trademark attorney.
Is a registered trademark necessary to file a lawsuit? No, but it will definitely impact the perimeters in which you can seek damages.
Do You Need a Trademark?
If you are asking, do I need a trademark?, chances are you do.
Don’t wait until it’s too late — protect your brand now. It’s better to spend the money now rather than later in a legal battle with someone trying to benefit from your hard work.
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