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Generally speaking, a Trademark or service mark is how customers recognize and differentiate you in the marketplace from other competitors. It's your "brand" and a brand that deserves protection. If you think about it, a company’s trademark(s) are among the most valuable business assets and it is always a good idea to protect your most valuable assets, right?
What is a Trademark?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (or “USPTO” for short) explains that “[a] trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.” Trademark = source of goods. Service mark = source of services. Both “trademark” and “service mark” are often collectively referred to as a “trademark.” A Trademark, however, is not the name or description of a particular thing, nor is it necessarily your company name (although some businesses choose to have it be one in the same).
Examples of Popular Trademarks:
Different Trademark Symbols and Their Meanings:
It’s easy to get confused with the symbols that you see after a logo, name or slogan. What the heck is the circle with the "TM" in the middle mean? Never seen the circle with "SM" in the middle before? What about the circle with the capital "R" in the middle? The following may be helpful:
(TM) = you are claiming a Trademark but doesn't signify that it's federally registered.
(SM) = you are claiming a service mark but doesn't signify that it's federally registered.
(R) = you are claiming a Trademark (or service mark) and stating that it has been formally registered with the USPTO.
Different “jurisdictions” of Trademarks.
Trademarks typically fall into one or more of four (4) different categories:
Typical Trademark Registration Timeline
State Trademark: If registering a trademark in the state of Arizona, the typical processing time is two to three weeks if review is needed, less if it doesn't.
Federal Trademark: There are many factors that can impact how long it takes to federally register a trademark, including your filing basis, but generally speaking, it typically takes 12 to 18 months to work through the various states of the registration process. “Filing basis” simply refers to the state that your trademark is in and falls into one of five (5) categories. The first two, Section 1(a) (where you are using the mark in commerce already) and Section 1(b) (where you aren’t using the mark yet but intend to within the near future) are the most common for new or US centered businesses. The remaining three (3) Section 44(d), Section 44(e), and Section 66(a) all deal with foreign applications.
Reasons You Want to Trademark Your Company’s Brand.
As signaled to above, it is not mandatory to register your trademark. You could claim a common law trademark in your general geographic area, however, as compared to a state trademark or even the stronger federal trademark registration, your legal remedies against those who infringe upon your trademark can be relatively limited and you could risk customers, intended for you, being diverted to a competitor which results in loss of revenue for you.
Advantages of a registered trademark can include, but are not limited to, the following:
Using Your Trademark Correctly
In order to appropriately preserve the mark's character, you want to ensure that you are using it correctly. To think of it another way, a trademark is an adjective, not a noun or a verb. Tips for using a mark correctly:
The point is to provide "adequate notice" that you consider the word, phrase, etc., to be your mark. That said, you don't have to use it every time you use the mark. A good rule of thumb is to use the symbol the first time a mark is used in a document or label, and occasionally thereafter. Similarly, some manufacturers will put a note on the product label or document listing all of the various marks, indicating the trademark ownership. Example: "Scotch® and Magic Tape® are Registered Trademarks of 3M Corporation". On a website, however, many companies, especially with large portfolios of trademarks, will have an entire separate webpage dedicated solely for listing out all of the marks. Examples: Thompson Reuters has a "Trademark notice" page (scroll to the bottom to see their monster list) and Google has created a "Brand Elements" page.
New Brand? Tips to Avoid You Committing Trademark Infringement
We get it, you're excited to start your new company and you're trying to come up with a cool name. However, rushing to market without having done proper due diligence can be a very costly mistake in the long run. You don't want to spend time and money on setting up a company, getting a domain name, setting up your store, purchasing branded products, and create advertising content across various social media only to find out that your mark, or something substantially similar, is already in use by a competitor. In those circumstances, you may, among other things, be ordered to terminate use, in all ways, destroy any goods and advertising materials that have infringing marks on it, and take down/cease using any marketing channels, including social media accounts. All that time, money, and effort ... down the toilet.
In order to minimize the chances that you'll be on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter or worse, be served with a complaint for federal trademark infringement, below are some tips to avoid a trademark infringement claim:
If You Receive a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter, Don't Ignore It. They Aren't Likely Going Away.
We understand. Being on the receiving end of a Trademark Cease and Desist letter can be scary, however, that is not the time to burry your head in the sand and hope that it will go away. Trademark owners pay good money to register and maintain their trademark(s) with the USPTO and it up to the mark holder to police their brand. Failing to police a trademark may be argued as an "abandonment" of the mark ... which could be a costly mistake on the part of the trademark registration holder. As such, it's important for you to understand that it's not likely anything personal, but rather business, and appropriate protection of one's intellectual property rights.
Trademark Services Offered by Beebe Law:
Whether you are just starting out and don’t have a trademark registration yet, or you have an existing trademark(s) but you need help moving forward, Beebe Law is here to help you through the entire lifespan of your trademark portfolio. Depending on your goals, and budget, our trademark and brand services can be customized to include one or more of the following:
If there is something you need help with, but don't see it listed above, contact us! If we don't do it, we can like bring someone in, or otherwise refer you to, someone who can.
Protecting one of your most valuable business assets ... your brand.
Beebe Law PLLC