3 Tips for Protecting your Brand before Applying for a Trademark
You’ve made your mark and have built a thriving business around your brand. Your intentional branding messages has created a reputation for your business that clients and customers can rely on every time they experience your product or service. True entrepreneurs understand that the value of a registered trademark lays in safeguarding their company’s image and preventing others from violating their rights by using their brand’s trademark without permission. I’m often asked by these same entrepreneurs “how do I protect my brand before applying for my brand’s trademark?” Read on my fellow bosses to catch 3 tips to help your business stay on the right side of the trademark law:
1. Do a Search
You can’t protect a brand that’s already out there being used in an industry related to yours. Before investing one more dollar on marketing your brand on social media or at conferences,
make sure your brand isn’t trademarked already. One of the best tools to help you research what brands are already registered trademarks is the Trademark Electronic Search System (“TESS”) that is maintained by the U.S. Trademark Office. You’ll be able to search active and inactive trademarks registrations as well as pending applications. You should also thoroughly search each state’s trademark registrations as well as online and social media. Often times, the search becomes too big of a task for most business owners, which brings me to my second tip.
2. Lawyer Up
One of the smartest investments you can make as a business owner is having a trusted legal advisor in your corner to help protect your brand every step of the trademarked way. Since your brand will fall in to two areas of law – trademark law and business law – you’ll want a reputable trademark attorney well versed in working with start-ups and small business. It’s also helpful if your attorney has a creative eye to help counsel you on monetizing your creative vision. Once you’ve found an attorney that has expertise in the trademark and business arena, you’ll have one less thing on your plate – your overflowing-entrepreneurial-this needs to get done today – plate. You can take comfort knowing that your lawyer’s got your back so you won’t be caught in an avoidable situation; like, having to re- brand your business and start from scratch, for instance.
3. Use the TM or SM Symbol
Trademark protection is not only based on written law but also on “common law” which gives rights in unregistered trademarks that are unique and used regularly within a particular industry. The TM symbol stands for “trademark” and is used for products while the SM symbol stands for “service mark” and is used for services. You are not legally required to use these symbols, but doing so affirmatively claims your rights to your trademark and puts the world on notice that you are willing to protect your brand if your trademark rights are violated.
Before I drop the mic...
Reputable and profitable business are built on fine-tuned branding that is protected and managed with the use of trademark. Be proactive in assuring that no brands conflict with yours, keeping your trusty legal advisor close at your side and letting the public know you own your brand. These small but advantageous tips can help position your company for prosperity and longevity.
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