Protecting Your Company’s Good Will
If you have worked hard to establish your company or product name, logo, or slogan, you want to prevent anyone else from damaging your reputation or taking away your business through unauthorized use by securing a registered trademark.
Trademarks are a means of protecting your products’ and company’s reputation — your “good will.” Trademarks are available for a variety of product-related expressions: company name, product name, logo, design, and slogans.
When it comes to trademark rights in the United States, protection comes from usage, not from registration. Nonetheless, there are many good reasons to register your mark with the U.S. Trademark Office and with your Secretary of State — including a greater ability to bring a case to court for trademark infringement.
At Mitchell Law PLLC, we understand how trademarks are reviewed and issued. We counsel our clients to select marks that are likely to obtain federal protection. If you are considering a particular name or design for trademark purposes, contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation with an experienced intellectual property attorney.
The Trademark Registration and Renewal Process
You may trademark a name or design that is actually in use or one that you intend to use. However, the law requires that you use that mark within three years of application approval.
To obtain a registered trademark, you must file an application with the state or federal trademark office. To qualify for registration, a mark or name must either be inherently distinctive (for example, a made-up word), or have acquired secondary meaning (for example, The Club).
Once a trademark has been registered, it can be kept alive forever, provided it is actually used and that all renewals are filed in a timely manner. Renewal must be made every ten years, with a special filing during the sixth year after issuance. If you fail to file for renewal, the trademark will be cancelled automatically.
How to Use Your Trademark as a Brand
Care must be taken that your registered mark does not become a common term to describe all products of a certain type. For instance, “Kleenex™” and “Xerox™” are registered trademarks that have been in danger of falling into the public domain because they became generic names for their respective products. “Aspirin” and “fridge” are prior trademarks are in the public domain and are no longer protected for exclusive use.
Some of the things you can do to try to avoid this fate for your brand include:
- Develop brand guidelines to ensure consistent use of your trademark in all print, broadcast, and digital materials
- Always use the symbols tm or sm (the symbol ® can only be used after registration)
- Don’t use your trademark as a noun, but only as an adjective
- Don’t abbreviate your trademark