Trademarks are often some of the most valuable assets of a business – legend has it that Coke® is the second most well known word in the world after “hello.” The Google® brand is estimated to be worth more than $20 billion. A trademark is a brand name, logo, or slogan that distinguishes your business’ products or services from those of competitors. Regardless of how big or small the business, the value and protection of brands is critical, particularly in the online word of today where domain names and user names (such as Facebook® and Twitter®) can be key to connecting with customers.
To help protect your brand(s), here are five basic steps to strengthening your trademark protection:
- Choose Wisely
The more creative your brand name is, the greater the odds that it is unique. A more distinctive and create name or slogan is generally more capable of standing out among the competition and becoming a brand with real value. Which sounds like a more exciting brand, a more valuable brand: “Jim’s Gym” or “Vantage Fitness“? “Cincinnati Frozen Yogurt” or “fraîche”? “Joe’s Pizza” or “Pie-tanza”? “Search.com” or “Google”?
- Use it
The more you use your trademarks – brand names, logos and slogans – the stronger and more distinctive they become and the more your likely customers are to remember your brand and to use it to tell others about it.
- Distinguish It
Use ALL CAPS, bold or italics to emphasize your brand as often as you can. Then the customer knows exactly what your brand is.
- Apply to register it
Registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a federal agency and part of the Department of Commerce, enhances the protection and the value of your trademark assets. Registration allows use of the ® symbol, provides substantial benefits and savings if you ever have to go to court to stop an infringement, and may help stop cybersquatters from registering new domain names. See http://www.uspto.gov/teas/index.html for more information.
- Create Google Alerts
An easy and free way to monitor for others copying your brand or commenting on it. If you find a possible infringement, contact the offender and if unresolved, contact an attorney. www.google.com/alerts.
These 5 steps are relatively easy – and 4 of them are free. Use them to help strengthen your brand and increase its value. Maybe someday someone will want to buy it or license it from you!
|Written on 7/20/2009 by Eric Pelton. Eric is the founder of Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC, an intellectual property boutique law practice established in 1999. Mr. Pelton’s extensive trademark experience includes more than 1,200 U.S. trademark registrations, dozens of Trademark Trial and Appeal Board disputes, and practice before the U.S.Court of Appeals for the Circuit Court.||Photo Credit: denn|