This week we thought it’d be a good idea to look at one of the most important parts of a product’s branding, its trade dress. You are affected by trade dress every single day, whether you realize it or not. If we describe a white coffee cup with a green circle on it, you’ll know it’s from Starbucks. Or if we show you a bag with a red square and yellow arches, you’ll think McDonalds. Essentially, trade dress is the various characteristics that make up a product’s or package’s appearance. But how do you protect your own trade dress? And does building a brand mean marrying that packaging?
We bet you still know what company this is.
Why should you build trade dress recognition?
Because your company needs a way to immediately distinguish itself. Your brand embodies all of the goodwill and trust you’ve built into your company, and something as simple as a color, font, or even the shape of your product’s box can evoke all of those feelings within whatever customer is looking at your product. That’s why you want your trade dress to be consistent over all of your properties. Your logo, signage, site, and product packaging should all be built around some common element that inextricably ties your business with your product or service.
Business Basics started out as a way to educate would-be and current entrepreneurs on the basics of running a business, and has slowly morphed into a place where we can try to tackle some of the most common questions we get about the ins-and-outs of business ownership. But, after looking through a few old posts, we were surprised we hadn’t delved into a very, very important part of running a business – protecting your intellectual property! To help rectify this, here is the first post in a series looking at IP protection. This week we are going to look at the trademark.
What, exactly, does a trademark do?
This week’s letter-based-topic might seem like a stretch since, really, the subjects are trademarks and copyrights – neither of which begin with an r. But putting registered in front of those terms is not just a cop-out that a lazy writer has used to fit with a weekly theme. There are actually very important distinctions between registered and unregistered intellectual properties.
Technically, you do not have to register trademarked or copyrighted property. An unregistered trademark simply needs the little ™ symbol next to it and, voilà, the property is unofficially trademarked. You can even establish a proprietary right to the mark by using it in the market.
The same general principle is also applicable to copyrights. When the United States signed onto the Berne Convention in the late 80′s, it effectively agreed to see an author copyrighting his or her work as an automatic right. That means that, thanks to the Berne Convention, no registration is required to copyright something in the United States.
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are all registered under the federal government which makes it easy for people to think the three are just about the same and get easily confused on how to use each one properly. The biggest difference between the three lies in the rights that they equip owners with and makes knowing the operational difference between these all the more important for owners. No two situations are alike which is why you have patents, trademarks and copyrights available as three different options to protecting intellectual property.
Knowing the applications, strengths, and weaknesses of these three will best help to protect your business for a wide variety of situations and benefit the business in the process. But before you start working with patents, trademarks, and copyrights, it’s important to know how each one varies from the other. Continue reading
Odd little bits of financial news have a funny way of creeping through the cracks in between dreary market forecasts and predictions of economic apocalypse. If you haven’t heard, Warren Buffett bought $5 Billion worth of shares for Bank of America, and countered claims of being pressured to help out the ailing institution by giving his inspiration for the transaction; his bathwater. The Huffington Post explained his reasoning in their article about the story.
You do not need a heavy chain and padlock to keep your ideas safe.
As this shows, a quick idea in the oddest of places can have dramatic implications for the market. At least when $5 Billion is involved. But Warren Buffett’s willingness to share his inspiration is not something that is seen often, especially in times of economic duress. In fact, quite a few employees, entrepreneurs and freelancers seem to clam up when it comes to ideas. After all, how do you know your colleague isn’t going to steal that idea? Heck, how many wannabe Warren Buffett-s in the making have taken long soaks in the bathtub since this article came out? But without collaboration, ideas have a tendency to fester and die. Having a good sounding board can only help to strengthen an idea and test it against criticism. Continue reading