How to protect a trademark

How to protect a trademark

Your hobby is beginning to turn into a business. Your friends all wanted you to make one for them, now THEIR friends are ordering. You have realized that your product is unique and have taken some steps to protect your design, but haven’t really given much thought about going into the business until now. So what are you going to have to do in order to protect this business and your designs from being stolen by someone else? What will you have to do in order to take it to the next level, creating a business that is viable and has the longevity you will need?

The very first step you will need to take is to decide on a company name. There are numerous name generators on the internet, or you can just ask everyone you meet for ideas for a few weeks. Regardless of your final list of choices, your decisions must be based on the unique and memorable nature of the name. Consider that a picture of an apple with a bite out of the side will immediately bring your mind to a computer, although the two things are seemingly unrelated.

No words are needed; you just KNOW that graphic refers to one certain computer company. Your choice doesn’t have to have any connection to your business or product. A play on meanings of words or of a graphic can, in fact, have more impact than a direct reference. Avoid mundane names like “Bob’s Car Repairs”. Consider something more like “Chariot Keepers”. Try to create something that will strike a chord and be remembered. This may require bouncing ideas around for weeks with friends and relatives.

Once you have decided on a company name, then you must decide what logo will bring that instant recognition and will tie in with your name. Once you have made this choice, you are committed, so you need to be SURE that it is one that you can stamp or print on your actual product, will easily be added to business cards, letterheads, signs, bumper stickers and other public media. This logo may well announce your product excellence to the whole world, let it speak for you.

Now that you have a name and a logo (that logo may or may not contain words, your company name, your internet address, etc) the next step will be to search public records to ascertain whether anyone else has already registered a company name that is too similar to yours. The same holds true of your logo. Even if you have had a professional graphic artist create that logo, it is still your ultimate responsibility to know that you have something unique to your company and use. There are many trademark and copyright attorneys in the country. Almost any of them can do the needed searches more efficiently than you can do them for yourself.

Still, you probably don’t wish to spend a lot of money on searches that aren’t needed. You can do your own preliminary searches on the internet, and if those are all clear, the next step will be to hire one of the professional trademark attorneys to do some in-depth searches, and to then register your trademark and protect your associated web domain names and company name. Although all of this process is possible without legal help, the importance and the legal problems that could be associated would warrant investing in the professional filing of the necessary forms and applications.

Your domain registration should encompass at least the most common combinations. Figure out the names you might use, and reserve them. Identify any variations of your chosen name which could be used to simulate your actual site. For instance, if your chosen company name is Apple, you will want to register Apple.COM, .NET, and.ORG at the very least. You may also want to register misspelled versions.

Be sure that you use the exact same company contact information for every one of these registration forms. This is crucial. Check and double-check to be sure that each one is identical to the others. This domain name registration is relatively cheap and may obstruct an attempt by someone to crowd into your market by using a similar name. Never use hyphenated names, and consider registering both the unhyphenated and hyphenated versions of your name. This might save you headaches later on, and is relatively painless at the set-up stage of the process.

All in all, the registration process is somewhat costly, particularly for the beginning businessman. First, you must register your trade name (company name) in your state. Then apply for all of the related licenses and tax identifications. The actual trademark registration application will cost around $300. The research and legal documentation will likely be of a similar minimum cost. Domain name registry is essential and will cost about $10/year/name, less if you pay for a longer-term of reservation. The protection against encroachment and the ability to then build some brand name recognition is priceless.

Placing your trademark on your product, even before it is fully registered, will establish that you are in fact using it. This will be a vital part of the application process. Start a website and use your logo liberally on that site. This can be used in your application process, to prove your uses and establish your claim to the logo. Simply placing a tiny TM on one corner of the logo will let others know that it is your trademark and that you have staked your claim to it. You do NOT have to have the registration process completed to do this. Once your application for registration is approved, there will be registry numbers and identifiers added to this ‘TM’.

Registering your business-related names and logos and gaining trademark recognition is almost as essential to the success of a business as the production of a quality product or service. Creating sight recognition of your logo will require that you place it in the public eye at every turn. Staking your claim to that logo with a trademark registration will ensure that you can then say to the public, “This logo tells you that we stand behind our product, guarantee the quality as well as the customer service and that we plan to be on the market for a long time to come.” Your trademark is your mark of excellence and commitment.


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