Intellectual property trademarks include symbols, names, images, or a combination of these elements that typically represent a brand or business.
For example, Nike’s swoosh is a logo and trademark that automatically makes consumers think 💭 of the brand. Therefore, trademarks are extremely valuable for maintaining a consistent marketing strategy and brand perception.
Unfortunately, this significance makes trademarks a hot commodity. In fact, trademark theft costs small businesses over $300 billion per year 💰!
Without a trademark, there is nothing stopping other businesses or individuals from stealing your intellectual property. Furthermore, misuse of your name or logo by another brand could confuse consumers and taint your reputation.
Luckily, once you associate a piece of intellectual property with your brand, it is officially, legally yours, so long as you ensure it is totally unique by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website or consulting a legal professional.
In other words, by simply using a logo, symbol, name, or other mark, you create what is known as a “common law” trademark, which are similar to automatic copyrights. However, note that common law trademarks provide very limited protection 👎.
For example, two businesses in separate geographical locations may legally have the same logo if they are only protected under common law trademark. Plus, common law trademarks are not ❌ discoverable via the USPTO website.
Therefore, I always recommend that my clients who have officially chosen a logo, symbol, name, or other sign to represent their company obtain a federal trademark as soon as possible.
HOW TO OBTAIN A TRADEMARK
If you want to officially ☑️ protect your intellectual property with trademarks, follow these steps to officially register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office:
In order to ensure your use of a symbol or words does not violate existing trademarks, you must research 🔍 whether your desired trademark has been previously used and registered on the USPTO website.
Unfortunately, researching trademarks is not an exact science. Most people who conduct the investigation on their own depend on Google search, ICANN Domain Name and Registration Data Lookup, and the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
Upon searching TESS, you may discover live, pending, or dead applications for your mark. Unless you yield nothing but dead marks, consult a legal professional 💼 for help determining if you can legally use your trademark.
On the other hand, you may find it easier to hire an attorney ⚖️ from the start of your research process, especially if it involves a logo or some other graphic, which are often more difficult to find. Plus, attorneys have access to sophisticated professional databases that make the research a lot easier.
Make it yours!
Once you are confident your intellectual property is totally unique, start using it immediately! In America, common law trademark will protect your mark as soon as you use it for your business.
Proper trademark use means physically displaying the symbol or words in a way that represents the product or service you’re selling. Usually, small businesses use their trademarks on labels 🏷️, tags, and other marketing materials such as a website or email.
Once you have incorporated your unique intellectual property trademark into your business, the next step is to officially protect it under federal law by registering it on the USPTO.gov website.
Then, after you’ve selected and filled out the appropriate application for your business, head right to the payment 💳 information, hit the “Submit Trademark Application Form”, and you’re done!
If you receive a notice of publication, this means your trademark application was properly prepared and the USPTO has sent it to the official gazette. This is a publication citizens can read to view all trademark applications and oppose 🙅♀️ them if necessary.
Then, after a waiting period of 30 days, if your trademark receives no opposition, you will receive a certificate of registration!
Ultimately, registering your intellectual property as trademarks is an extremely important part of ensuring your brand has the appropriate legal protection 🛡️.
However, the trademark process is not always easy. Therefore, if you have any trouble or questions about trademarking your logo, name, or other piece of intellectual property associated with your brand, reach out to a social media attorney to learn how we can help 🤝.