Trademarks symbolize your business identity. They include unique names, symbols, phrases, designs, and logos you create for your business to help identify your products or services. Unique, memorable trademarks, consumers can easily distinguish your business from your business rivals.
Effective trademarks make it easy for customers to find your business, considering how crowded the market is. They’re a valuable business asset that appreciates over time as your business reputation grows. When choosing a business trademark, consider your long-term goals and similarity with others. Below are common small business trademark mistakes you should avoid.
1. Failure to engage a trademark attorney
Trademarks are core to every business, and failure to consult an experienced trademark attorney can lead to costly mistakes. Engaging an experienced and skilled attorney such as Attorney Sarah S. Shepard can help you by conducting an in-depth search to ensure that the trademark doesn’t already exist. Besides drafting a proper description of your goods or services, a trademark attorney also helps identify the class in which your goods or services belong.
They also prepare and file all the documents necessary for trademark registration. Hiring an attorney helps you avoid trademark conflicts, meet the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requirements, and increase your chances of acquiring the trademark.
2. Not conducting a trademark availability search
Conducting a professional trademark search before using and registering is essential. It helps avoid legal costs associated with trademark infringement. It also reduces your chances of successful registration. Failure to perform trademark availability search may lead to a loss of money, time, and resources if someone manages to prove you’re infringing on their trademark, and you may be required to repackage, rebrand, or not use the product or service, resulting in significant losses.
3. Waiting for the trademark to be approved before using it
The trademark laws state that the actual use of a mark in commerce creates rights and priority over others. This means that the ownership of a mark begins with the first to use and not the first to file. If your trademark availability search proved that a mark was available, it’s wise to start using it immediately to secure priority of ownership over other potential claimants.
4. Failure to expand trademark protection to other countries
The ability to market and sell in other countries has become more feasible, making it possible for small businesses to use their brands or manufacture overseas. These businesses need to adhere to proper ownership rights in the countries’ jurisdictions. If you intend to expand your business to foreign countries, file for trademark protection in countries before beginning your operations.
5. Using descriptive trademarks
Descriptive trademarks include words or phrases that describe a product or can identify with a product’s features. Such marks are considered weak and may not be granted protection or registration under trademark laws. A trademark’s strength is closely related to its market identification. Choosing stronger trademarks makes it easy for it to be registered and protected from unauthorized use. Consider consulting a trademark attorney to advise on the marks that are enforceable.
6. Failure to enforce trademark rights after registration
Upon obtaining registration, most business owners may forget about the trademark because they think it has federal protection, and the USPTO can prevent others from using it. Nevertheless, you should police the market and beware of the registry to prevent unauthorized use by others to avoid losing the granted rights. Enforcing trademark rights also prevents the mark from becoming generic and granting similar confusing trademarks.
7. Failure to use the trademark as registered
Once the trademark is registered, it should be used per the registration certificate. Depending on the class under which your trademark is registered, you should use it for all indicated goods or services. Using it for a few items means you aren’t using it as registered and for all the goods in the registration certificate, leading to your trademark’s potential full or partial cancellation.
Trademark mistakes can be very costly for businesses. They may result in losses, infringement costs, or business closure. Engaging a skilled trademark attorney can help you complete the registration process seamlessly, ensuring trademark acquisition. Use the above tips to avoid common trademark mistakes.
Written by Rida Sheppard