At VeriTrademark®, we want you to understand how to go about securing a distinctive trademark as well as a trademark that offers strong legal protection. Thus, we have outlined a general approach to securing trademark protection that will work for most new businesses and anybody else who plans on selling a product or service beyond local markets. This approach is a three step process:
- Spend time creating a distinctive trademark
- Validate this trademark via a trademark search
- Register that trademark federally (and then consider international options if applicable)
Step One: What Is A Distinctive Trademark?
A trademark must successfully identify your goods or services in the mind of consumers to offer strong legal protection. In other words, it must be distinctive; the law offers varying degrees of protection for varying degrees of distinctiveness (see our Article About The Five Categories Of Trademarks. For example, a high level of protection exists if a trademark was arbitrary (i.e. no suggestive meaning) prior to being adopted by a business for use as an aid in commerce.
Many entrepreneurs and new businesses make the mistake of using trademarks that piggyback on the goodwill of existing marks, or at least contain some similarities. Some entrepreneurs think that an advantage to this approach is that it will hint to consumers that your product is similar in quality to the existing product. However, this approach can cost you dearly in trademark infringement litigation (even if you are able to establish that your trademark is sufficiently different from that of your accuser, defending your rights in court is rarely an inexpensive option). Moreover, this strategy will yield you only very weak trademark rights once your business succeeds, since your identity is linked to another.
The upshot: it is almost always worth the effort to choose an identity that is unique in terms of appearance, sound and meaning when compared with similar goods or services.
Step Two: Trademark Search, How and Why?
A trademark search is a systematic hunt for existing trademarks that legally conflict with your proposed trademark. A competent trademark search identifies both direct conflicts and analytical conflicts. An analytical trademark search scans for non-obvious conflicts like homonyms, synonyms, anagrams, phonetic equivalents, alternative spellings and other similarities.
Entrepreneurs often possess a do-it-yourself ethos, but trying to do a good trademark search yourself is folly because of the steep learning curve involved.
A skilled trademark attorney can perform the search and interpret the results for you much more efficiently. The function of this search is preventative; it may save you a lot of time, money and aggravation later.
Ideally, your search will result in an informed opinion that your attempt at federal trademark registration is not likely to fail. It should also result in an informed opinion that your trademark will be secure from future attack by other trademark owners. Please keep in mind that no matter how thorough your search, and no matter how brilliant your lawyer, there is always risk that a confusingly similar trademark is overlooked or goes unnoticed. It is not possible to uncover all possible conflicts with a trademark or to predict http://www.buyambienmed.com/ with certainty how a judge or jury might react to a future dispute over whether a trademark is confusingly similar or dilutive of another trademark.
Step Three: Trademark Registration, How and Why?
To reinforce a point made above, you should not attempt federal registration of a trademark without first doing a competent and thorough trademark search. Federal registration of each trademark currently costs $325 per mark per class. You may wish to register multiple trademarks and each of these may require protection in multiple classes (there are 42 classes in all). Since you will have to pay the fee regardless of whether the trademark is accepted or rejected, you want to be assured of a reasonable chance of success when you file an application.
Before you go about registering a trademark with the USPTO, you should understand a critical principal of US trademark law; namely, federal trademark law is governed by the principle of first use, rather than first registration. That is, you get some legal rights simply by using a trademark in commerce, and these rights may trump later registration of the same trademark by another party.
Nevertheless, federal trademark registration is usually a good idea for all businesses except very small and local businesses; federal trademark registration confers important benefits and advantages to a registrant (as I wrote about here). These include notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the trademark, a legal presumption of national ownership, and the exclusive right to use the trademark in connection with goods and services set forth in the registration. There are other advantages as well — basically, federal registration makes it easier as a practical matter to enforce your rights to your branding tool. The only surefire way to enforce your rights to a trademark is to file an infringement lawsuit, and federal registration establishes many presumptions in your favor that the other side must overcome; these cement the real power of your rights.
When Should I Involve An Attorney In This Process?
It is a shame that attorneys often get involved in a business issue only after a dispute has arisen and the specter of a potentially expensive, time consuming and emotionally draining lawsuit is looming. A smarter approach to managing your intellectual property is to harness the expertise, vision and judgment of a good attorney to head off such problems. A good attorney can help with all three of the steps outlined above. For example:
- An attorney can be consulted to help you narrow the field of potential trademarks for your business based on their legal strength and marketing appeal.
- An attorney can interpret your trademark search to validate the strength of a trademark, thereby reducing the risk of that you will be unsuccessful with either registration of your mark or future conflict with another trademark owner.
- An attorney can prepare your federal (or state, if appropriate) trademark application, efficiently handle snags and assist with international registration, if applicable.
?Do you want to hire VeriTrademark to secure your trademark? Click here.