What Is a Trademark Anyway?

Often there is confusion about what a Trademark really is. More importantly, there is confusion re what you do once you successfully register a trademark. Nothing? Au contraire mon frere - having a trademark is a big responsibility and you need to be vigilantly protecting your brand.

Once a company gets off the ground, often times they start to think, well maybe I should get a trademark now for my business name. First red flag: You don't just 'get a trademark'! It is a very lengthy and sometimes complicated process that ideally you should seek the assistance of an attorney to help you. IF you are successful in registering a trademark with the USPTO [www.uspto.gov] it can take anywhere from 9 - 12 months. During that time you are limited in what you can do to stop others from using your brand or selling counterfeit materials. Ideally you want to start the trademark process BEFORE you launch your business so that you are protected from Day One.

In essence, a trademark allows you to monopolize a word, phrase or logo for a period of 10 years. AND... you monopolize use of that word, phrase or logo ONLY for the goods and services that you list in your trademark application. In other words, if you own a software company then you can get a trademark for software related materials. That also means that someone else can use the same exact word to sell, shoes, for example. 

So why do you ask, is there more work to do once you get a trademark registration? Have you ever used the word 'Aspirin' or 'Escalator' in a conversation? Well, many years ago these were protected trademarks that have since become 'generic' in the English language. If you allow a trademark to become 'generic' you lose all rights to protecting that trademark. What this means is that you have to be vigilant about searching the Web for persons using your trademark and immediately send them notifications that you are the rightful owner.  If you allow it to get out of hand, only you are responsible for losing rights to that trademark.

Trademarks are powerful tools to build a brand. Contact me if you have any questions...