Start-up business entrepreneurs have a lot to do to get their business off the ground. From the first brilliant idea to company formation, there are mountains of work to get done. One thing that is often overlooked is not registering a trademark for proprietary elements of the business.
Proprietary elements of a business are its intellectual property. While some say that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery', in business it means trouble. It takes time and lots of blood, sweat, and tears to develop a product. Once on the market, those who would imitate it, do so quickly. Without the protection of a trademark, replicating the product is fair game.
What things are considered intellectual property?
An idea, invention, product, materials, and services that are owned by a company or an individual is protected under law. These things must be original and unique to qualify for protection. There are several ways to get protection. The three main ways are:
Copyrights. Copyrights offer protections for some forms of expression. These can be written words and works of art. In reality, a copyright exists the minute the work is created. However, registering the work is prudent, and is needed if a copyright infringement case is ever filed. Copyright will be granted to the individual work but not a broad category on a subject. As an example, you author a book about cats. You cannot copyright the subject cats, but you can copyright what you wrote about cats. Copyrights usually relate to intellectual property and not to a specific product.
Patents. A patent is for the protection of an invention, which usually is some type of tangible product. One must submit a formal patent application, with descriptions and sketches of the invention, to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A patent is necessary to protect the inventions from being copied and sold under another name.
Trademarks. Those things that uniquely identify a product, company, or services such as designs, slogans, logos, jingles, or a phrase, can be trademarked. Usually, the trademark of a company becomes synonymous with its image and brand. A popular and widely recognized trademark can exponentially increase the value of a company. Like a patent, a trademark must be registered with the USPTO.
So, what are the 4 reasons it is critical for a startup to file a trademark asap?
1) A trademark can become one of the most valuable assets a company owns.
The first thing that a customer learns about a business is the name and the logo. A striking logo and a clever name can create an indelible image in the minds of consumers. As a business grows and gains ground in a market, the business brand increases in values as well. Trademarks build goodwill and this translates into money. Trademarks can be licensed, bought, sold, and can be used as security when getting a business loan.
2) Trademarks allow for easy expansion into other markets.
It may not be as easy as you think to expand your business outside a local area without a national trademark. Let's say your restaurant, Jumbo Burgers, is having remarkable success on the east coast and you want to expand west. Come to find out there is another Jumbo Burgers restaurant located in some of your target expansion cities. Because you failed to file a national trademark on the name, you are not allowed to open a restaurant within 20 miles of the other Jumbo Burger. If you had filed for a national trademark before you opened your restaurant you either would have found out about the other Jumbo Burgers or your trademark would have stopped the other one from using the name.
3) A trademark will prevent future problems.
Without a trademark, you could be using a logo trademarked by another business. If that business finds out, you might end up in court defending yourself from legal action. When you decide to file a trademark, your attorney will do a search on the USPTO database to see if there are other businesses with similar or the same logo. Even if one is found, you may not have to completely abandon yours. Simply changing the color or font, or the wording might be enough to make a big enough difference. The sooner your startup does a trademark search the better for limiting future hassles, and damage.
4) Trademarks are an everlasting asset.
While patents eventually expire, trademarks do not. All it takes for a trademark to live forever is an occasional filing of a renewal form. However, filing these forms on time is critical to keeping your trademark safe. This is a job best left for your attorney, as there are different ways to handle this based on if you filed under the Madrid International Trademark System Protocol or not.
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Contact Ioberti Attorney at Law today to see how we can help with your trademark filing.
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