5 Tips For Protecting Your Trade Mark

Most people have seen those tiny ™ and ® symbols that sometimes follow the end of a name. These little icons show...

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Most people have seen those tiny ™ and ® symbols that sometimes follow the end of a name. These little icons show that the owner has applied for or registered that brand. This protects the time, effort, and investment that a company has put into their product or service. Trademarks reflect a company’s unique identity in the world and its reputation.

Protecting your trademark, registered or not, requires sufficient planning and constant vigilance. These five tips should be kept in mind to know what to do, and what not to do, to sufficiently defend your mark from erosion or theft.

1. Avoid being Descriptive

When first creating your trademark, it is best to avoid marks that merely describe, misdescribe, or pluasibly misrepresent an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function feature, purpose, or use of the goods or services with which it is associated. Thus it’s best to have a clearly distinguished mark that doesn’t create confusion with the goods or services it is associated with.

2. Do Not Cause Any Confusion

It is also best to avoid creating marks that conflict with another mark that is either registered or pending registration. Conflicts are typically determined according to similarity of the marks and the commercial relationship between the goods and services identified by the similar marks. Again, it is best to start with a clear and identifiable trademark that is your own so as not to create confusion.

3. Use the Trademark in Commerce or Trade

If you are wanting federal protection for your mark it is essential to remember that your goods or services must be “used in interstate commerce” in order to receive substantial federal trademark protection. Thus if you are only operating within a given state your mark will not receive protection.

4. Contact a Professional From the Beginning

When creating your mark, it’s best to know all of your options from the beginning. The time and cost associated with having an trademark attorney on board at the beginning of your venture is likely minimal compared with the costs down the road to have a conflict over a mark. A good trademark lawyer can help you clear the hurdles early with your mark and continue to do updated searches for infringements on your trademark.

5. Monitor for Infringement

While protecting a trademark is arguably best left up to legal professionals, the very least a business can do is to routinely check the search engines—any Bing or Google search will do—to confirm no one else is misusing their mark.

To go a step beyond this, Google also offers Google Alerts, a free notification system for alerting any time your mark appears on the news or Web. However, Google Alerts should not be used exclusively. Google Alerts are probably will probably not inform you on what’s happening on the trademark registers, and not necessarily what’s going on with domain name registrations either. TrademarkHero is a good solution for infringement monitoring.

If and when a red flag appears, rather than jump the gun and immediately contact the infringing business, experts maintain that Google Alerts should only be used to give an idea of the activity surrounding the mark out there.

While this can be a worthwhile practice, it’s still not a good substitution for having an trademark expert in your corner.

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