One of the many requirements of starting a business is registering your trademark. A trademark is the identity of your business, and it’s crucial because it’s how your customers recognize your brand. A business in a specific niche needs to be recognizable, especially if the market is already dense. And trademarks help customers identify them in a sea of similar ones.
With this said, one cannot deny the benefits trademarks bring to a business organization. And so to understand them better, here are some basic facts you need to know so you can apply them to your business venture.
- Trademark By Definition
A trademark consists of any combination of words, phrases, and symbols. Those using trademarks can also have logos or designs made for a more elaborate feel. Businesses use trademarks to promote products or services. Trademarks are different from patents, which are specifically for inventions, and copyright, which are for fiction and non-fiction published works. While they are used for modern businesses, trademarks are as old as the Roman Empire.
- Trademark Statement Of Use
Once you have filed a request to use your desired trademark, you need to file a statement of use trademark by filing a form at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Next is to use your trademark in business, such as featuring your logo and brand name on the product, packaging, and other types of merchandise.
In some cases, new businesses have yet to transport goods and create interstate transactions by the time of the filing. They are not yet making a sale, which is why the business must also apply for the intent to use the trademark to inform the USPTO that it intends to use its trademarks shortly. At present, businesses have six months to file these requests.
- Avoid Mistaken Infringement
When brainstorming for a name for your business, ensure you’re doing thorough research online. Getting a letter accusing you of infringing on the trademark of another business is common, but you don’t want to be wasting your time and money on printing promotional merchandise for your business. It’s only natural for business owners to protect their intellectual property, and even if it’s only by accident, you will want to rebrand.
When you choose not to do the necessary research, there are also worse ways to learn your lesson. Not only will you have to rebrand your business and have someone change the name and logo, but it will also take extra expense on your part. Even if it wasn’t intentional, there’s the risk of a lawsuit, and if you don’t have the money for a settlement, it would be best to ensure that you’re using a unique name and a logo design.
- Sole Ownerships, Partnerships, Or Corporation Can File For Trademarking
Those who own the business name or the mark (logo) can file for the trademark of their business. The business owners and those who oversee the trademark are in charge of their products or services, their quality, and their operations.
The process of filing is different for those who are citizens and for foreign brands. While it’s easier for local businesses to file a trademark without a lawyer, foreign business owners must designate a representative from the United States to handle the application and oversee any proceedings related to the trademark. The representative can be an attorney from the USA who will be communicating with the USPTO.
It is beneficial for a foreign business that wants to set up its brand in the United States to hire a lawyer with experience handling trademarking matters. They are familiar with the legal requirements and the law that might impact the process. Experienced lawyers will also know how to handle forms and make zero mistakes that can harm the application. Foreign businesses should avoid doing it themselves, especially when they are not accustomed to US laws.
- The Four Types Of Trademarks
Trademarks are not equal and are ranked from one to four, with the latter being the highest. The more unique a trademark is, the more protection it receives. Trademark law ensures that businesses can appropriately provide a distinctive identity for their goods and services. Below are the four categories of trademarks:
Rank 1: Generic
As it is called, generic trademarks are used freely and don’t receive any protection from the government. The trademark’s owner could unfairly gatekeep a specific word or words once protection on them was placed.
Rank 2: Descriptive
Its owner must provide a more elaborate definition of the business in connection with the products and services to get this type of protection.
Rank 3: Suggestive
Business owners must be creative when providing a name without an additional description. The name entices consumers and allows them to use their imagination.
Rank 4: Arbitrary
Under this category, the business owner intends to market their products and services under a trademark. The name of the products can be unrelated to them and must be sold in commerce with the mark.
- Trademarks Need Renewal
When a trademark has been used for a long time, and you’re enjoying the protection that comes with it, you must also remember when to renew it. Technically, existing federal trademarks are irrevocable. It means they will last forever. But you must remember that they will need to be renewed after a decade of usage. You can head to the appropriate agency and register your business if it’s already been used for five or six years.
Head over to the United States Patent And Trademark Office and bring the requirements for the renewal. There are also legal requirements that business owners must meet. Consulting a lawyer experienced in trademark law will be able to help you if you need more understanding of this part of the process.
The above is only some of the basic information about trademarks. If you’re starting a business, it’s necessary to learn about them to take the necessary first steps in trademarking. It can get complex, so you will benefit from hiring an experienced lawyer who can explain the laws surrounding trademarks. You can benefit from more information if you encounter challenges in the future.