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.
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.
Guest post today courtesy of Kent E. Seton, founder and president of the Center for Nonprofit Creation.
If you are passionate about your nonprofit charity or business, branding your charity is an invaluable tool that can yield significant economic benefits. Some of the most well known nonprofits in the world, like United Way and the American Red Cross, are charitable entities that are just as well known as brands that do make a profit, like Coca Cola and Nike. How does a nonprofit translate into dollars and cents? Several companies, such as the American Red Cross, have brands so reputable that they license out their trademark to “for profit” enterprises. An example of this licensing in action is a seal of approval – if you go into a grocery store and see a Red Cross logo on a cosmetic item, it has been officially “certified” by the American Red Cross. Each time that product is sold, the American Red Cross earns a royalty. The American Red Cross generates a significant amount of revenue via this model.
For the second installment of our ABC’s of Business here at the MyCorp Blog. B gave us a bit of trouble – we knew we couldn’t lapse into the overtly lazy choice and just use “Business” as our B word, but we soon realized that most of the B’s we could use involve Business in some way. Business financing, Business to Business Sales, Bring Your Own Business (the new BYOB) … and while we love busy businesses, we just couldn’t be seen using the tell-tale B word for this installment. In what must have been one of the weakest eureka moments in the history of blogging, we figured out an important B that DIDN’T involve the word Business – Branding. So, for this week at least, B is for Branding. Continue reading
After starting your business and establishing your initial customers to reach out to, it may seem like there isn’t much to do except wait for the customers to come rolling in. On the contrary, this is the perfect time to start your business down the course for success! One of the most important (and easiest) ways to do this is to register for a trademark for you business name, product name, logo, or company slogan. In comparison to the number of people who open up businesses each year, not many people take advantage of this step but it can really save you in the end. The benefits of registering a trademark for your company name and/or product are twofold: protection of your business and brand recognition. Continue reading
Separating your small business from its competitors is crucial, especially in the current economy. Learning how to successfully brand your business will help you achieve this goal. However, with so many new forms of social media, creating a strategy can be difficult. Consider the following questions and answers to learn branding tips that will help you navigate the sea of online communication and effectively develop a branding strategy.
After you start your corporation or LLC, what comes next? Building a reputation in your market or industry can be challenging and frequently requires time to gain the trust of consumers. Registering a trademark can help you on your way to becoming an established and reputable company by giving you a jumpstart in name recognition. Continue reading
Forming a corporation or LLC is one step in the development and protection of a brand. Protecting your company name with the Secretary of State in which your corporation or LLC is formed does not necessarily mean that your trademark or brand name is avaiable on a nation-wide basis.
If you’re building a brand, which may go beyond the formation of a corporation or LLC, then considering a trademark search is a good way to go. A good example is our own company. Our corproate name is “My Corporation Business Services, Inc.”, but our brand name is “MyCorporation.com.” We do business under our brand name, it’s simpler, it’s more catchy, and it’s more well known. For that reason, we made sure the name was available on a nationwide level – that it can be used without conflicting with another company.
To evaluate whether there are other companies using your brand, a trademark search is the way to go. It’s a great first step in the process because it’s better to make sure the brand name is available before you invest in the brand only to discover it’s already in use.
A brand can be a company’s biggest asset – look at Amazon, Nike, McDonands. It’s often not the products, but the brand names with which we are familiar. Familiarity often results in customer loyalty, and it all starts with the brand.
In the Internet’s infancy, domain names served merely as a means of locating specific computers on the Internet. Now, with globalization and commercialization of the Internet, domain names have taken on business identification and trademark significance. Domain names are now highly visible in the bricks and mortar world, appearing in television, radio, and magazine advertisements, on billboards, and in most company’s advertising materials. Now that domain names serve a unique advertising and business purpose, confusion may arise when a company’s domain names are not the same as their trademarks, and vice versa. Domain names are distinct from trademarks because domain names are global and unique (a particular string of letters can link to only one site). On the other hand trademarks may overlap in different industries or different geographical locations. In the business world, because Internet users often assume a company’s trademark is its domain name, a domain name may become an equally valuable piece of intellectual property, and, like a trademark, a true business asset. Ultimately, one of the most important means of identifying the goods or services sold by your company will be through its trademarks and corresponding domain name. In fact, your trademark may be the only means for customers to identify your goods or services, and if your trademark is not the same as your domain name, a customer may become confused when searching on the Internet. Unavailability of a matching domain name could prove devastating to your business. Furthermore, choosing a trademark that is unusable because it conflicts with a prior user of a confusingly similar mark may result in a significant loss of valuable time and money, wasted marketing dollars and goodwill. For these reasons, when considering a trademark and domain name, it is important to take into consideration the following: Initially, it is important to undertake a comprehensive search of the trademarks. Continue reading