4.5 minute read
One question I receive frequently is whether or not a client needs a trademark registration with the USPTO (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office). To begin, what is a trademark registration, anyway?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is similar, except in that it distinguishes a service as opposed to goods. The term trademark is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks. Some examples of trademarks include: brand names, product names, slogans, and logos.
Do I need a USPTO registration?
Any individual or company engaging in commerce within the U.S. would benefit from going through the trademark clearance process & eventually, the application & registration process. If your business is online & based in a country other than the U.S., but ships goods to U.S consumers., you should consider the trademark clearance process to ensure that 1) others are placed on notice of your use of the name or logo (this can act as a deterrent for potential infringers); 2) that you are not infringing on another company’s trademark or intellectual property; and 3) to provide you with the exclusive right to use that trademark in connection with your type of goods or services.
Do you need a registration? The real question is, do you need to protect your business’ intellectual property or make sure you aren’t infringing on that of another before investing thousands into the name?
What happens if I don’t go through the clearance search & registration process?
Successfully obtaining registration in the U.S. provides you the exclusive right to use that trademark in the category you are registered in. For example, the trademark ‘APPLE’ as used with iPhones, is likely registered in the category pertaining to mobile electronics. ‘GUCCI’ likely has a registration in the fragrance category, and so on. If you choose to not go through the clearance & USPTO registration process, you risk building your company on a shaky foundation, one that does not belong to you and, worse, may already belong to someone else! This can lead to a forced re-branding, at best, and at worst, allegations of infringement. And no, “I didn’t know they were using the name” is never an acceptable defense.
Also, ask yourself: What’s my end game? Do you plan to sell this business one day? If so, a trademark registration creates & protects the value provided in the usage of your trademark. Intellectual property rights are proprietary rights.
The time to go through the USPTO process for your company’s brand & product names is not after your company has grown & developed fully; it is before you begin preparing for operations to commence. And if you haven’t done so yet, there is no better time than now to get the process taken care of. Clear the name, secure your application, & begin to build the company of your dreams on a solid legal foundation. This solid foundation can protect one of the most valuable assets you’ve created within your business.
To the success of your business,
Keep up with Yasmine on social media! @startuplawyerlady
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice or if you would like to schedule a call with our office in order to best protect yourself & your business, you can do so here.
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