The Web is a big place, you know that better than anyone. If you want to rank highly for your services you need a big budget and a lot of content. But your clients get to know you by your name, and can find you that way. What if you had to change your name? It would take months for clients to be able to find you again.
A trademark can protect your name and ensure YOU have ownership over it.
Use more than just descriptive words as necessary.
Often, the exciting part of starting a new business is coming up with the name and branding. You or your pals come up with a catchy name and logo. Or you hired a branding consultant to assist you in choosing a brand with longevity. Here are some crucial pointers for the procedure.
Use more than just descriptive words when writing. No one can possess a protectable right utilizing the name "SMART" even if their technology is the smartest of all SMART decisions. Being minimalistic and labeling your new scent simply "PERFUME" won't win you any protectable rights because generic phrases that describe the class of products or services are never protectable. A brand that calls yours BEST won't give you much in the way of legally enforceable rights because laudatory phrases aren't often protectable either.
Make sure you obtain the necessary agreements from all parties involved assigning all such rights to you or the business that will own and run the brand if a third party, such as your closest friend or a marketing and branding expert, assisted in the development of the brand. If you don't, you'll have problems later on when you need to file paperwork to protect your new brand and it's not clear who the rightful owner should be.
Given that you have avoided these typical blunders, you must now take action to ensure that you can create legally enforceable rights in your new identity to prevent facing legal problems as a result of unintentionally imitating another party's brand.
Your brand can be successful if you put in a little effort, money, and legal counsel.
Search for trademarks
If the brand, or something very similar to it, even if it is not identical, is not already being used by a third party for the same or similar offers, most nations' trademark rules confer exclusive rights in the brand as used in connection with particular goods or services.
The first step is to carry out trademark clearance searches to find rival uses that might pose a problem for your use. As filing costs are never refundable and the expense of defending your brand against challenges at a trademark office or in court might be prohibitive, applying to register your brand without taking this first step can be a very expensive mistake.
How then do you look for and validate your proposed new brand?
Consider the geographic areas that will make up your primary emphasis first. Are China and Indonesia potential markets for you? Is the European Union or the United States your target market? Establish a beginning point since, even if you have huge plans and want to be a worldwide company, it is impossible for even the largest corporations to search the entire planet for brands that are similar to yours.
Consider your alternatives for carrying out such clearance next. Online searches of databases of registered trademarks and pending applications are free and available at all trademark offices. Many brand newcomers may attempt to determine whether a brand is acceptable for use based on such searches. While admirable and an excellent first step, such effort will not guarantee that the brand you seek is accessible.
How should similar trademarks, or brands that are similar, be interpreted when they frequently encompass a wide range of products and services?
Firms that specialize in trademark clearance or search can perform thorough searches for the intended brand. These papers are frequently exceedingly long and challenging to read and comprehend. Dashboards and risk assessment tools could not adequately reflect the market in which your brand will compete, despite the fact that search businesses are constantly improving their products to make them simpler for non-trademark specialists to use. Additionally, and perhaps most crucially, search services seldom provide legal advice on the mark's availability, which might be crucial if your rights are ever contested.
Although the majority of trademark offices allow owners to submit applications straight online, there are several benefits to doing so.
Get legal counsel
The best course of action is to set aside some money from your budget and see a lawyer. A competent trademark expert can request a clearance search that is customized to your needs, evaluate it with an understanding of trademark law, and then offer advice, pointing out potential hazards and possibly establishing a plan to manage them in advance.
Even while legal firms can be pricey, many of them charge flat fees to undertake and provide brand choosing advice. Some businesses and law firms offer free support to tiny startups and not-for-profits. Law schools may also provide clinics to assist with these problems.
Make a trademark registration application
Let's assume that you have obtained brand clearance and are eager to begin using it. Do you need to take any further action? Yes is the clear-cut response. Although you don't need to wait any longer to start using your brand, you should submit trademark applications right away to register your brand's slogans, logos, and other identifying characteristics in order to safeguard the products and services you sell or provide.
The entity who files the trademark first will typically be considered to have exclusive rights to it, with the United States being the biggest exception. Once your brand has been cleared, filing as soon as you can is crucial. Even if others have already started using your brand in the United States, where actual use is required to obtain registration, timely filing on an intent to use basis will protect your brand against subsequent filers, so long as you file a declaration demonstrating that you have established use within the given time limit.
Where do you file, exactly? Simply put, it is not financially feasible to register your new brand in every nation and legal jurisdiction imaginable. Start by registering the trademark in the countries where you intend to use it and/or produce the goods that it will identify.
Although the majority of trademark offices allow owners to submit applications straight online, there are several benefits to doing so. There are some specifics that must be included when filing, such as classifying the goods and services the brand will be associated with, considering possible disclaimers for the brand's descriptive elements, and writing an accurate identification of the goods and services to be offered.
While many of the official trademark offices' web resources offer tutorial assistance, filing pro se (for yourself) can eventually cause issues. Using one of the many non-lawyer legal service providers that provide speedy filing assistance can be even more challenging. Frequently, these companies merely ask you for the data required to submit the form without highlighting any potential issues with the mark, such as descriptiveness or genericness or unregistrability, or for any other reason. Even though some businesses might charge extra for certain legal counsel, they might not be prepared to handle challenging objections or questions from trademark agencies.
Again, hiring knowledgeable legal counsel is the most affordable option. Numerous businesses have flat charge plans, and there may also be opportunities for pro bono assistance. Your legal counsel can also help you decide whether you need to file your mark in several jurisdictions and, if so, can assist in creating a thorough filing strategy to safeguard your brand.
After the application is submitted, the trademark office examines it carefully and may provide questions or objections in the form of an office action. A lawyer should be able to provide you advice and write a response to address those concerns.
Skip a few months in the future. Your trademark is protected! For your new brand in your product categories, you have sole rights! What does this suggest in terms of what you should do next?
Conducting trademark clearance searches to uncover competing uses that can pose a challenge to your usage is the first stage in obtaining a trademark right. Failure to do so may be expensive.
Boost brand awareness
First, consistently represent your brand to build customer recognition. Because the same color scheme, font, and logo are always used, brands like Coca-Cola, for instance, are instantly identifiable. Keep your use consistent unless the brand's color is one that is intended to change frequently or the name is one where the typeface changes deliberately and people identify these as aspects of the brand. Use the mark exactly as it was filed if you applied to register a logo or a name in a distinctive typeface. If there are any deviations from this, you might not be able to rely on your registrations to uphold your rights.
Second, safeguard your brand on social networking sites like Twitter, Instagram, and others by applying to register it as a domain name.
Online brand monitoring
To make sure your brand isn't being abused or misappropriated online, you should keep an eye on it. Your customers will frequently be the first to alert you if that happens. If you do encounter such misuse, you must determine whether it occurs at a level that would require you to take action.
Even though it's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it can put the legal rights you've fought so hard to establish and defend at risk. Starting with a demand letter—again, preferably made by legal counsel—asking that the use cease immediately is frequently the best course of action. Legal advice can help with these procedures rather quickly and affordably if the harmful usage involves a domain name that is being used infringingly.
If the infringement involves true counterfeiting, which is when imitation goods are sold under your brand name, you may need to take more assertive legal action, such as filing a lawsuit or enlisting the aid of law authorities. Those kinds of compliance concerns normally don't come up right away, but rather after a brand has developed a following among its target demographic client base. You will have a resource that can help you out right away if you have a solid relationship with a knowledgeable trademark lawyer. Your attorney could also advise you on whether to take proactive steps like submitting copies of your registration certificate to various customs offices so that they can intercept fake items at border crossings.