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What is a Business Trademark?

Your business means everything to you and to others who depend on its success. If you leave your plans to chance, how well do you think your business will perform?

Will your products and services have the impact you desire?

Will they be recognizable as yours to the marketplace?

Don’t take a chance on poor planning and decision-making for protecting what your company produces. Develop a trademark, making it clear that your business is the source. 

Will developing a mark do the trick to protect your offerings? Not quite. You’ll need to register your trademark as well for state and federal protection. If you don’t, you risk someone recreating your symbol, scripted word, or logo and placing on their products and promotional materials. That won’t help sales or establish your reputation. 

Legally, you don’t need a trademark to make and market goods. You can simply begin. Put in the extra time and effort to apply for a trademark, and let the United State Patent and Trademark Office help you protect your ability to succeed.

It’s an exciting time to be developing or opening a business. With all the planning and setting up of the business, you’ll want to establish your and products or services properly, protecting their value. One way to protect value is to trademark your products, identifying them as belonging to your company.

You see trademarks on products, television commercials, trucks carrying products, and more daily. The trademark can be recorded as written words, such as the business name, as a logo, a design, a sound, a symbol, or a distinctive package. If you see company name™ or company name® indicated, the superscripted marks indicate trademark or registered trademark.  

Why is a Trademark Important?

Many companies offer very similar products and services. Competitors try to catch the leaders by emulating what they offer. Your trademark differentiates your product or service, called a service mark, and identifies it as yours.

As a consumer, you may want to buy a brand name product, let’s say, breakfast cereal in the shape of the letter O. There’s at least one famous brand name to make a product like that, and there are other companies that make a similar product. If you want to buy the best-known brand, look for the distinctive trademark.

Turning this scenario around, let’s imagine you provide tax preparation service. You pride yourself in accurate, friendly, fast service with a discount for returning customer. Your company name is Best Tax Return. Across town, Best Tax Prep offers a similar service. A consumer may get confused by the names. If you’re trademark is memorable, clients can recognize your company and services by the mark seen on ads, signage, and emails.

Where Do I Register My Trademark?

Start by creating a trademark that you’re planning to use on your good and services, making your business recognizable as their source. You can register the mark in your state so that others in the state can’t legally use it. For nationwide protection against use of your trademark, register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It’s beneficial to get help from a U.S.-licensed attorney to help you understand trademark law and with the application process; for a foreign-domiciled trademark applicant, it’s required to have a U.S.-licensed attorney provide representation to the USPTO.

The trademark registration process can be complicated with guidelines, requirements, and timelines. The Trademark Electronic Application Systems of the USPTO has a tutorial available online, and it’s highly recommended to complete it before applying.

Your federal trademark registration, once in effect, last for 10 years. Every 10 years, you can renew the trademark. For state registration, check with your state government office.

How is a Trademark Different from a Copyright?

Copyrights exist for a different reason than trademarks. Rather than mark your business as a source of the product or service you offer, a copyright covers original works. If you’re an author, artist, songwriter, or other creative, you may want to protect your works through registering with the U.S. Copyright Office.

How Does a Trademark Differ from a Patent?

Have you invented something new? Do you desire to keep your design protected so that you have the only rights to make it and sell it? In this case, a copyright or a trademark won’t do the trick. You’ll need a patent. Different patent types are available, and the length of time your rights are protected varies by type. Apply for a patent through the USPTO.

Is it the Right Time to Trademark?

If you enter a market without creating a protected trademark, the need for it is likely to arise. Consider trademark creation and application in your business plans or along with new product or service development. Review the TEAS tutorial and line up an attorney to see if you’re ready to apply.

Set yourself up for success and you’re more likely to secure customers or clients that recognize your company and want to do business with you.