Why Your Business Needs a Trademark

Authored by Tyler Thorne
Published by InBusiness Magazine

Why Your Business Needs a Trademark

Every business starts with two things: an idea and a name. While entrepreneurs (rightfully) focus on executing on their ideas when launching or expanding a business, safeguarding the business name and brand becomes crucial. A key step for safeguarding is trademark registration. Registered trademarks are often essential for brand protection and may significantly enhance the value of your business. But what exactly are trademarks, and why does your business need one?

What Is A Trademark?

A trademark is any word, name, logo, design, or any combination that identifies goods or services of one source and distinguishes them from others. It may be the name of your business, or it may be a name you use in connection with certain goods or services your business offers.

Registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will help prevent others from trying to use the same, or confusingly similar, name or logo as you. More importantly, registering a trademark allows you to use a name with less worry of infringing on someone else’s rights.

Choosing The Right Trademark.

If you’re launching a new business or introducing a new product or service, choose a name that stands out. If you choose a name that’s too common or generic, you’re exposing your business to potential legal problems.

First, your application may be refused if your trademark is merely descriptive of its goods or the services you sell or if it is confusingly similar to an existing mark or pending application. A mark is merely “descriptive” if it describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose, or use of the specified goods or services. A mark is “confusingly similar” to an existing or pending mark if the marks are similar and the goods or services are related such that consumers would mistakenly believe they come from the same source.

Additionally, without a registered trademark, other businesses could use a similar name or logo, causing confusion among your customers and potentially damaging your reputation. Your brand is your business identity—it’s how your customers recognize and relate to you. A registered trademark can serve as legal protection and enable you to prevent competitors from using similar names that might confuse your customers or dilute your brand’s reputation.

Even worse, if a competitor has registered the same or a similar trademark, the owner can seek to prevent you from using your trademark. The owner may send you a cease-and-desist letter or take legal action against you, such as filing a lawsuit. As a result, you may end up legally obligated to change your brand name or logo, resulting in significant costs and potential loss of customer recognition and loyalty.

To help reduce the risk of wasting your time and money dealing with legal disputes from potential and future competitors in the business, choose a distinctive trademark that is clever and conceptually strong. Your trademark should relate well to your company, but it shouldn’t resemble anything else in your market.

Registering Your Trademark

If you’re thinking of registering a trademark, consult with an attorney early in the process to determine whether your trademark is registerable. A trademark attorney can identify potential problems down the road and provide solutions to prevent those problems. Most importantly, an attorney can guide you through the process of filing an application and registering your trademark, as further outlined below.

Step 1 – Trademark Search: Before filing your application, it’s important to perform a thorough search of existing trademarks to ensure your trademark is available. The trademark registration process can be complex, requiring an understanding of nuanced trademark laws and the potential implications for your business. An attorney can guide you through the initial process by conducting a thorough trademark search.

Step 2 – Application: If your trademark appears to be registrable, an attorney can help you prepare and file your application correctly. Part of the trademark application process is determining which International Classes for which to register your trademark. With 45 International Classes, it can be easy to become confused. A trademark attorney can much more easily make the determination about which International Classes to register. Filing the correct class(es) the first time allows for a quicker, less costly registration process.

Step 3 – Examination: Once submitted, an examining attorney at the USPTO may flag certain legal problems with your trademark, as well as with the application itself. Your attorney can help you respond to any objections or legal issues that arise in this process.

Step 4 – Registration & Renewal: Following registration, an attorney can help you submit timely renewal documents as required. An attorney can not only monitor new USPTO filings, but also the unauthorized use of your trademark. Working with an attorney means that you can focus on growing your business, not policing your trademark.

At Gallagher & Kennedy, we offer comprehensive trademark services tailored to meet your unique business needs. With our help, you can secure your business’s identity, increase its value, and ensure its future growth. We can guide you through every step of the trademarking process, helping you avoid potential pitfalls and maximize the benefits for your business.

Tyler Thorne is a corporate transactional and trademark attorney at Gallagher & Kennedy in Phoenix, Arizona, where he helps young entrepreneurs, startups, and athletes-turned-business owners and investors through the legal process of starting and operating a business. He developed a niche practice representing athletes in their post-career ventures from his own experience as a professional baseball player-turned-lawyer.

Click here to read Tyler's article published by InBusiness Magazine.