Intellectual Property for Small Business: Trademarks

by benbunker on January 18, 2011

Trademark registration and small business.

Trademark protection for your las vegas small businessA great trademark is appropriate, dynamic, distinctive, memorable and unique.
- Primo Angeli

What is a trademark?

A trademark is another form of intellectual property, like a copyright or patent. According to the USPTO: “A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.”

Now, a trademark is only one of several other marks available to a business (there are also: service marks, certification marks, and collective marks). However, the most common method for businesses is the trademark.

Why should I register a trademark?

It is wise to trademark any applicable item if you wish to protect it. Registering a trademark with the USPTO offers several advantages:

1. Constructive notice nationwide of the trademark owner’s claim.
2. Evidence of ownership of the trademark.
3. Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.
4. Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign countries.
5. Registration may be filed with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

These advantages make protecting your registered trademark (and your business advantage) much easier. Your trademark will become identified with your business and brand. This allows you to differentiate your business from others and provides a competitive marketplace advantage.

How do I register a trademark?

Before registering your trademark, be sure to run a thorough search to make certain that the mark you intend to register is not currently in use. The USPTO has the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) available for this very purpose. You do not want to go through the time and expense of registering your trademark only to find out it infringes on another existing mark. Once you have completed a thorough search of TESS, you can proceed to register your trademark.

Once again, the Internet is the best route for registering a trademark. The USPTO’s website provides access to the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), which is the method for registering a trademark. Be advised that the USPTO has strict requirements for registering a trademark, including deadlines that must be met. If you are unsure about navigating this process yourself, you may want to hire an experienced IP attorney to handle this procedure yourself.

Final caveat.

With intellectual property comes a certain responsibility to the owner – that of protecting it. A registered trademark (or copyright or patent) is only valuable to a business when it is enforced. This means that the owner of the trademark must be vigilant, watching for any potential infringement. If anyone is found using the same or similar trademark, corrective action will be needed for protection. This can range from a simple cease and desist letter from your attorney all the way to a full-blown infringement lawsuit, if necessary.

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