As a proud small business owner, you would do anything to protect your business. From cybersecurity solutions to proper insurance, business owners are responsible for protecting their company’s assets. This includes your intellectual property, like your business name, logo, products, services, and more.
Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, or the inventions, ideas, designs, and images a business creates. A unique business logo or brand name can set you apart from the competition by generating brand recognition and a loyal customer base. Over time, your customers will associate your logo with your business—and your business only. This is where a trademark comes in handy.
While trademarking your business name or logo isn’t necessarily required, it is recommended for legal protection, and can contribute to building brand awareness. Some small business owners assume that trademarking is only for huge, global brands, but protecting your hard work and brand identity is just as important for small businesses as it is for larger corporations.
Here, we’ll explore eight reasons to trademark your business name and logo, as well as the costs associated with trademarking and other considerations for businesses eager to get started.
8 reasons to trademark your business name and logo
A trademark is a form of intellectual property protection that covers words, phrases, symbols, or designs that distinguish one brand from another. If you plan on building your brand, you will need to trademark your name and logo because it represents your business. Your brand is who you are, what you do, and why you do it, and should be consistent throughout your marketing. Trademarks are a valuable asset to have, and as long as you’re using them in the United States, they never expire. In fact, some of the most recognizable brands in the country have been around for over a hundred years.
By trademarking your business name and logo, you:
- Give yourself access to exclusive rights to your products and services. Securing legal protection should be a top priority for all business owners, as you will have the exclusive rights to your products and services. Registering a trademark for your business will do just that.
- Strengthen your authority. Having a trademark can give you more assurance and authority as a business owner, as most trademarked brands and businesses are usually considered more serious than businesses without a trademark.
- Ensure your brand isn’t misused. Trademarking your business name assures that your brand isn’t misused or misrepresented on the Internet, or outside of it. It deters third parties from using your brand and associating your business with unappealing, untrustworthy, or inappropriate content.
- Avoid legal trouble with other companies. While standing out is important, you may find that the name you’re trying to trademark is already being used by another company, and they don’t want confusion with customers—and neither should you.
- Improve reputation management. When other companies or individuals can use similar names to your business, you’re vulnerable to cases of mistaken identity. Your ultimate marketing goal should be to control public perception and the narrative surrounding your brand, and trademarking can help you focus on your own actions instead of monitoring the behaviors of others.
- Increase recognition. Trademarks help customers find you, and help set your business apart from the competition. Trademarks act as a powerful communication tool for capturing customer attention and distinguishing your brand, products, and services.
- Steer clear of confusion. Once you secure a trademark, no other company or individual can use it without your permission. Sometimes, competitors may try to use your business name in sneaky ways which can lead to customer confusion. With a trademark, you have legal recourse to put an end to any use of your trademark that may confuse customers.
- Effectively utilize the Internet and social media. Your brand is the first thing customers enter into a search engine or social media platform when they’re searching for your products or services. Higher traffic on these platforms translates to higher rankings, which can bring even more traffic to your website.
Trademark vs. Copyright: What’s the difference?
Both copyrights and trademarks protect distinct creations. Generally, a copyright protects original work, while a trademark protects items that distinguish or identify a particular business from another, such as names, phrases, and logos. While copyrights primarily protect the rights of those who have created literary works, trademarks protect the use of a company’s name and its product names, brand identity, and slogans.
When is a business name not eligible for a trademark?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants patents for the protection of inventions and registers trademarks for products and services. They have guidelines for what can and cannot be trademarked, and will refuse a trademark that may be confusingly similar to another trademark already in use. Generic and descriptive words also won’t be given trademark protection, such as “Fun Toy.”
If your online business sells products, it may be a smart idea to register your business name for a trademark, as well as your products. If they have unique names and meet trademark eligibility requirements, you’re only enhancing your brand and your overall business. However, if your business or product name simply describes the product, then it’s unlikely to qualify for a trademark.
How can businesses register a trademark?
Before you register your trademark, you should search the Trademark Electronic Search System on the USPTO’s website for existing trademarks to your desired name or mark. The USPTO won’t register your trademark if it’s likely to be confused with an existing trademark, so you should search for variations and similar names to your business name.
After you have searched for similar trademarks, you can start the process by filling out an application on the USPTO website. The application process is relatively simple, and can be completed in four simple steps, but the entire approval process may take up to six months. Once the application is filed, USPTO sends it to a government patent attorney for review, and if approved, they will publish the trademark in an online journal to give others the opportunity to oppose it. This process takes about three months, and if there’s no opposition, your trademark is officially registered.
What are the costs associated with registering a trademark?
The application will cost you around $250, but total out-of-pocket fees and expenses may be higher. Applying for a trademark doesn’t guarantee you will be approved for one, as they have a thorough review process. Fees are nonrefundable if your application is denied, so it’s important to do your research, and decide if you need a trademark before you begin the application process.
What should I do if another business infringes on my trademark?
If a person uses any reproduction, copy, or imitation of your trademark, then it has been infringed. As the owner of a trademark, you can stop others from using your mark, or one that is similar. In this case, you need to tell the person or company using your trademark to stop, so you should send them a cease-and-desist letter clearly explaining the infringement. It’s possible they may not know about your trademark, but in any case, your letter will let them know to stop using your trademark before you file a lawsuit. If your letter is ignored, you can use this as evidence to show you tried to negotiate before filing a lawsuit.
Consumers are constantly exposed to trademarks in their everyday lives, so registering a trademark for your business should be a top priority. Not only can it protect your brand from the beginning, but can contribute to its success in the long run.
Disclaimer: We highly recommend consulting an attorney when dealing with possible trademark infringement or other trademark matters.