Do you have a business and are looking to turn it into a brand? Does your product or service leave an everlasting mark on the consumers and you want it to be known? A great way to do so is to have a catchy name, a unique logo, or a phrase that helps consumers separate you from the competition. But how do you restrict people from using phrases, logo designs, and names? You do so by registering them as a trademark for your business.
A trademark is a legal entity that gives you the ownership of a unique name, logo, phrase, sound, or slogan that will serve as a device to help consumers identify your products or services. The basic idea behind registering a trademark is to legally give your business a unique identity. Trademark gives you the legal right to stop anyone else who tries to steal this unique identity and use your brand name or logo to benefit themselves.
A common confusion among business owners as to whether a trademark is really necessary? The fact is that you do not require to register a trademark. You automatically acquire “common law” trademark rights when you use your name, logo, or sound for commerce within your community. For instance, if you own a candy store known as “John’s Candy Den” and put the name and logo on boxes then the name and logo will automatically be yours in your immediate vicinity without formally registering it. However, you would be required to register a trademark if you want to use the name or logo beyond the immediate vicinity. This type of trademark registration is known as federal registration. The authority responsible for granting trademark registrations is the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Formally registering a trademark will benefit your business in the following ways:
There are five different types of trademarks for products and services that have been classified based on their degree of distinctiveness. The different types of trademarks are:
A generic mark or phrase cannot be trademarked. For instance, the word computer cannot be approved as a trademark as it will restrict any business selling computers from describing their product. However, you can combine generic terms with other words to get it approved as a trademark. One of the most effective ways to obtain a trademark for a generic term is to combine it words that define the quality, ingredients, specialty, or characteristics of the product or service you are selling.
This type of mark uses a word, phrase, or logo that describes one or more characteristics of the service or product and can only define a single product or service. Getting descriptive marks registered with the USPTO can be tricky. For a descriptive mark to be trademarked, it should have an established secondary meaning in the consumers’ minds. Besides this, descriptive trademarks are registered on the Supplemental Register and are granted far less protection than trademarks registered on Principal Register.
Like the term implies, a suggestive mark suggests something about the product. The mark shares references to the product and requires customers to exercise their imagination to connect with the product. These marks do not require a secondary meaning to be associated with them.
Fanciful marks are inherently different from anything that exists and are the easiest to obtain. Obtaining trademark protection on these types of logos, names, or phrases are easy because they do not compete with each other or are too generic.
Arbitrary marks are those that contain words and phrases that have a well-known and defined meaning, but their meaning in the case of the trademark is different. One of the best examples of an arbitrary mark is Apple. An apple is a term used to define a fruit, but in this case, it is a word used to describe an electronics manufacturer.
To successfully register your trademark, you need to fulfill four basic legal requirements:
1. The trademark application needs to be filed under the actual owner’s name. In legal terms, the owner of the trademark is defined as the individual, corporation, association, or partnership who controls the quality of goods produced or services rendered under the registered trademark.
2. The applicant for the trademark should specify what kind of entity they are. You need to specify whether you are a business, corporation, individual, or a partnership. In addition to this, the applicant’s national citizenship is also required to be provided in the trademark application. You do not necessarily have to be a citizen of the United States but need to provide your citizenship on the application.
3. An important requirement to fulfill is that the application should be based on actual use or real intent-of-use of the trademark in commerce.
4. You are required to submit a drawing along with a specimen of the trademark when submitting an application that is based on actual use. A specimen is defined as any real-world example of how the trademark is being used in connection with the goods and services. Some things that you can submit as a specimen for a trademark application are tags, labels, and containers for your products. If you are a service-based business, you can use advertising in magazines and brochures as specimens. You cannot send a specimen that uses the trademark for ornamental use. For instance, a t-shirt with a trademark logo or phrase would not be considered to be a specimen unless it has a hang-tag attached to it, indicating actual use for commercial purposes. In addition to this, the specimens that you sent should be flat and no larger than 81/2’’ x 11’’ in dimensions. CDs, DVDs, and other digital equipment are also not acceptable.
Although following the detailed guidelines prepared by the US Patent and Trademark Office to register a trademark might seem profitable, it can cost you dearly. This is because you are required to follow strict instructions. If your application gets rejected, you will lose out on the processing fee and will have to begin the process all over again. Other than the primary benefit of saving on processing fee and time, hiring a trademark attorney will help you in the following ways:
Are you planning to establish your brand across the United States? Fill in the form provided alongside and let us help you find an expert trademark attorney who can help you in your endeavors.