My clients and other small business owners often ask me,
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a symbol, word, phrase, logo, or other media that legally distinguishes one company’s product from any others. Once a trademark is registered, the company is then given certain exclusive and enforceable rights to use its trademark to promote its business. The most common things small businesses should seek to protect with a trademark are: the business’s name, logo, motto, phrase, tagline, or any unique colors or sounds associated with the business.
Acquiring trademark protection for your company’s name is smart business, because stamping your trademarked company name (and that very important “®” designation) on your products deters most copycats and lets your customers know they are not getting knock-offs or imitations of your products. (Side note: Your company’s online registration at the Secretary of State’s office has NOTHING to do with trademark protection.)
Did you know that you can trademark your product’s unique color? While you obviously cannot trademark “red” or “blue,” you may apply for a color trademark within your industry; consider John Deere’s green tractors or Christian Louboutin’s red-soled shoes. Sounds can be trademarked too, such as the NBC chimes, or the MGM lion’s roar.
Does My Small Business Need A Trademark?
Trademarks can be tremendously valuable to you as a small business owner, and can often be your best advertising and branding tool. I often tell my manufacturing clients that to distinguish their product from all the others in their industry, they absolutely should own the trademark for it.
To acquire trademark protection for your mark, it must first be properly registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or with the State of Florida. However, the decision as to where to file your trademark (state, federal, or international) and the mechanics of how to file your trademark are much bigger questions that should warrant a conversation with your small business attorney. Don’t overlook the fact that you can acquire a Florida-only trademark relatively inexpensively.
Once your trademark is registered and recognized, your company gains the all-important right to use that mark exclusively. This means that you can (and should) keep other companies from infringing its use. Your ownership rights are enforceable in our legal system, however, these actions can be expensive, and usually involves hiring attorneys, and/or filing lawsuits seeking economic damages.
For questions about trademarks, service marks, or any other business law questions contact Brandon Woodward, Esq. directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The Law Office of Brandon Woodward P.A. is pleased you have visited our web site or read our blog. The materials and information contained here are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as legal advice.