Trademarks - how to protect your name?
Actually, the title should include “save your name, logo or slogan” but that’s a bit too long. In fact, trademarks can also be used to protect sounds, colors, shapes and even odors (more politely called “scents”). Although recently a judge refused a trademark protection request based on taste, trademarks have been filed for some very strange edibles. How about edible flip flops (no, I really don’t want to know about that….).
The best way to protect your name, logo or slogan – is by applying for a registered trademark. You need to include the trademark itself, plus the class(es) that describe the goods and/or services that you want to sell under the mark.
The relevant government office – the USPTO in the US – will examine your application and will determine if it meets the criteria. For example, your trademark can’t be descriptive and it can’t be too close to an already registered trademark. You can find out more details here.
Once your application is accepted, your trademark becomes a registered mark – and you can put the “circle-R” or ® symbol next to it. You can see an example of the ® symbol in action on the Tastee Freez homepage (look at the top). If your trademark isn’t registered, you aren’t allowed to use that symbol, but you are allowed to put the letters “TM” next to it.
In the US, both before your trademark is registered and periodically after registration, you will have show use in commerce. This means that money needs to change hands for a good and/or service identified with your trademark. The relevant good and/or service is defined by your trademark application, so if you applied for protection for your trademark for cosmetics, then you have to show sales of cosmetics.
WHY BOTHER REGISTERING?
Shakespeare says “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Today trademarks are very important to identify your brand. If you don’t register your trademark, you’ll have a much harder time protecting yourself against a competitor who decides to copy it. That quote from Romeo and Juliet actually begins “What’s in a name?”. Today, the answer for your brand could be “Everything!”.
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