At Erblaw, we realize that there’s much more to a company than bricks and mortar. In fact, in today’s world, a successful company may not even have a physical presence: virtual and online companies are increasingly popular. Whether you’re a service company or a manufacturer, a neighborhood store or a global firm, your reputation and intellectual property is often what sets you apart from your competition. Protecting those assets is an important part of growing your business.
One of the most important pieces of intellectual property in a business may be the brand name – think Starbucks®, Apple® and Nike®. The importance of choosing a good brand name can’t be underestimated.
Once you begin to use a brand name, you will want to protect the use of the name. The best way to do this is to register the trademark or mark. Federal registration of trademarks is a relatively inexpensive and straightforward process. A mark can generally be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as long as the mark does not conflict with a pre-existing mark and the owner of the mark uses it in interstate commerce to identify a product or service.
State registration is also available as an alternative to federal registration if the mark is only being used in one state. Although the first person to actually use a brand name in commerce is the rightful owner regardless of whether the mark is registered, demonstrating first use without registration can be difficult.
There are many benefits of federal trademark registration, including notice to others of claim of ownership, presumptions of ownership of the trademark, which grants the owner the exclusive right to use the trademark in commerce in connection with the goods or services identified in the trademark registration, and the right to bring an action for infringement in federal court.
Ironically, the more successful and widely-known a trademark becomes, the more at risk it is of becoming “generic” and losing its protective registration. Many product words that we commonly use were once trademarks. These include aspirin, cellophane, corn flakes, escalator, granola, jungle gym, linoleum, raisin bran, shredded wheat, tabloid, thermos, touch-tone, trampoline, yo-yo, and zipper. All of these terms were once protected trademarks that could only be used by the companies that owned them. The owners of each of these trademarks lost their protection due to wide-spread use of the trademarks to identify the product rather than the brand. Once the Patent and Trademark Office determines that a trademark has become generic, the trademark loses its protection and can thereafter be used by anyone to describe the type of product associated with the brand name. If your brand name becomes generic through improper use, a competitor can petition the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel your registration, and your brand name could suffer the same fate.
At Erblaw, we can work with you to register your trademark and protect your valuable intellectual property. Contact us for more information.
Have more questions about trademarks? Check this out...