Protect your Startup with a Trademark
What Should You Trademark?
Often startups have no idea what should be protected by trademark registration, since it extends far beyond just your company name. Here are a few of the items that you should consider seeking trademark protection for your startup.
First, a small business should always protect its company name. Your company’s name is how consumers, your customers, find you and your goods or services (e.g., Nike, Amazon, Apple, McDonald’s, etc.). Without protection a competitor can open shop under a highly similar corporate name and siphon away business from you by confusing your customers as to the business they are patronizing.
Like your company name, consumers also locate your goods and services through your product names. As such, if you provide a product or a service under a particular name you must also protect the same to avoid competitors from using like names on their goods and services (e.g., iPhone, Wii, Explorer).
In addition, it is not only the names of products that should be protected but logos as well. The Nike Swoosh, the Adidas three stripes, and, of course, Apple’s now iconic apple with a bite are all examples of logos that serve as trademarks.
Advertising & Marketing Slogans
If you use a particular advertising slogan in connection with the promotion of your goods and services these should also be protected as a trademark. Think of
- McDonalds – “I’m Lovin’ It”
- KFC – “Finger Lickin’ Good”
- Nike – “Just Do It”
- Kit Kat – “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat”
- Heinz – “Beanz Meanz Heinz”
- Skittles – “Taste the Rainbow”
- Rice Krispies – “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”
Benefits of Trademark Registration
Often startups wonder if trademarking is worth the cost and efforts at the early stages. In addition to the potential savings of avoiding a costly rebranding after learning that the name you have been using is trademarked by another company that has sent you a cease and desist letter, here are a few of the benefits of having a trademark registration for your startup.
Having your trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office makes them easier to uncover by those doing trademark searches to see if their own trademark is available to be registered. This, in turn, helps to prevent the adoption of confusingly similar marks by third parties who may not choose a specific trademark similar to yours if they see your trademark is already registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Registration Symbol ®
Only trademarks that have been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have the authorization to use the® symbol in their advertising and marketing. The right to use the ® symbol in connection with your trademark which, in turn, also deters potential infringers from adopting or using a similar trademark to yours. It is also a great way to communicate that your brand is legitimate and valuable in a crowded field of imposters and cheap knock off brands.
Unfortunately it is a reality that we often have to resort to filing lawsuits to enforce trademarks against infringers that don’t respond to cease and desist letters. When your trademark is registered it increases the type of monetary damages you can demand in a lawsuit if it is later infringed upon such as the ability to recover lost profits associated with the infringement including the possibility of receiving treble damages in certain circumstances as well as recovering attorneys fees. Essentially, having a trademark registration really pays for itself multiple times over.
Block Importation of Infringing Goods
If your trademark is used in connection with goods this is a key factor. Once registered your trademark registration can be provided to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that will block the importation of any goods into the United States bearing a trademark that infringes upon yours.
In this digital commerce age where many brands are distributed in online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, one of the most powerful weapons that you have against counter-fitters and unauthorized distributors is their infringing use of your registered trademarks. With a trademark registration, it is relatively straightforward to provide notice to these online marketplaces to remove the infringing listings in the quickest fashion possible.