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.
Most business owners realize that the marketing slogans, logos, and other trademarks and service marks used by their company are extremely valuable commodities. The amount of time, effort, and dollars that go into establishing these things can add up quickly and pay off huge with a brand that reaches large amounts of valuable customers.
But just like any other asset, these things need to be actively protected in order to keep that money from going to waste.
What Is a Trademark?
First, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re protecting.
As we make our way closer to the end of the alphabet of our ABC’s of small business, we’re tackling trademarks, which can be a name, design, or logo that distinguish a company and emphasize its uniqueness. Trademarks, as defined by businessdictionary.com, are distinctive instead of descriptive, affixed to the item sold, and registered with the appropriate authority to obtain legal ownership and protection rights. By federally registering your business name or company logo, you’ll receive notice to the public of your claim of ownership on that mark with an additional nationwide legal presumption of ownership, and the exclusive right to use that mark on or in connection with goods or services set in registration. And now that we’ve briefly covered the basics on what a trademark is and how federal registration of the mark works to protect your business and brand, we’re going to briefly cover the additional steps involved in trademarking – conducting a trademark search, registering the mark, and filing for a trademark watch.
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. (more…)