Trademarks are critical legal protections for businesses seeking to retain the integrity of their brands. Neglecting to obtain a trademark can enable competitors to more closely imitate your work or even prevent you from marketing your products and services beyond state lines. To prevent competitors from duplicating the originality of your work and undermining your rights, obtaining a trademark is a critical initial step.
1. Reduce the Risk of Trademark Infringement
Most businesses that end up facing a lawsuit over a trademark violation never realized that they were doing anything wrong. Even with an extensive keyword search of the U.S. trademark office’s database, it can still be possible for similar trademarks to slip through the cracks. When businesses fail to obtain a trademark, they leave themselves vulnerable to the risk of a competitor claiming their name is similar in nature to another registered trademark. You can avoid these legal problems altogether by simply trademarking your business or brand name at the federal level.
2. Right to Use the Trademark Registration Symbol ®
Obtaining a federal trademark registration with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office will allow the registrant to use the official trademark registration symbol ® and such phrases as “Reg. U.S. Pat. and T.M. Off.” The use of the trademark registration symbol not only serves to increase consumer perception of the professionalism and sophistication of a business, but it also provides notice to would-be infringers that the mark is unavailable and has been registered. By placing the ® next to your mark, you would also improve your chances of collecting damages and/or profits from an infringer in the context of a trademark infringement lawsuit.
3. Legal Protection Across State Lines
State laws can protect your trade name in some instances, but your state’s jurisdiction does not apply within the other 49 states. Competitors can legally operate under the same name as yours in other states, and this can lead to conflicts when doing business in other jurisdictions or online. Moreover, a competitor with the same name that submits a trademark application before you will ordinarily get the trademark regardless of its size or the nature of its business activities. Obtaining a trademark, therefore, is critical to prevent a wide range of legal problems related to interstate commerce.
4. Higher Brand Value
The saleable value of a brand is a critical metric for entrepreneurs seeking to maximize the value of their efforts. Entrepreneurs able to sell their business or brand can often get approved for a larger credit line while enjoying the flexibility of being able to walk away through a sale at any time. A registered trademark can increase the financial value of a brand because it can increase the sustainability of differentiation and reduce risks. Since trademarks prevent competitors from marketing products through a brand with a substantially similar likeness, prospective investors will pay a premium for the legal certainty that an approved trademark provides. Furthermore, competitors seeking to use your registered trademark can only do so with your express permission, so this can lead to royalty payments or a business buyout.
5. Protects Against Similar Trademarks
Competitors sometimes try to register a trademark using a name and likeness similar to what your business is using. If this happens, you could be barred from continuing to use your own brand name without going through extensive legal hurdles. Moreover, you might not be made aware of a new trademark registration, and you could consequently end up facing a lawsuit for infringing on this new trademark while conducting interstate commerce. Simply registering your brand with the U.S. trademark office can prevent newly issued trademarks from undermining your right to continue doing business in the future.
The legal manner in which a trademark is defined ultimately determines its ability to defend against imitators. The foresight of an experienced trademark attorney, therefore, can increase the margin of differentiation that businesses can legally enforce through their trademark rights. Furthermore, an experienced attorney can ensure that all filings are submitted in the proper way to reduce delays and prevent application denials. Contact a trademark attorney to consider strategies for improving the value of your trademark rights.
Xavier Morales, Esq. is a licensed trademark attorney. In 2010, The Trademark Insider named Mr. Morales the #1 Trademark Attorney in the United States as determined by the number of trademark applications filed in the previous year. Mr. Morales has filed over 5,000 trademark applications with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.