By Alli Elmunzer
Most business owners know what a trademark is, and they realize they should probably get one to protect their business name, logo, tagline, products and services, but many don’t realize why they actually need it. The most common question I get is “so why do I actually need a trademark and what is it going to do for me?” And this is a good question because trademarks are serious business. It is not only a significant financial investment (especially when you work with an attorney) but it is also a serious commitment to the business itself. Filing a trademark in a lot of ways is like playing the long game with your business. If you are going to commit to filing a trademark (which takes 8-18 months) you are pretty much making the long term, CEO, visionary decision that you are in it to win it with your business. And the good news is that it is the right move on so many fronts. Registered trademarks have the obvious benefits of “no one else can use my name” but there are also many other benefits of trademark registration that you might not even realize.
So, here are the 10 biggest and best benefits to registering your trademark.
1. Exclusive rights to use the mark. This is of course the one everyone knows about and arguably the most important. Having a registered trademark means no one else can use the same name, or even a name similar to yours when selling something in the same class of goods. This is an amazing asset for your business because you know the blood, sweat and tears you put into building your business will ultimately be protected.
2. Not infringing on someone else’s registered trademark. Part of the trademark process will be doing an extensive search before you file your application to make sure you aren’t infringing on someone else’s trademark. There is nothing worse than spending time, money and effort building your brand and business simply to learn that you are the infringer and have to change your name. So although this isn’t exactly a benefit of having a registered trademark, it is a benefit of going through the process.
3. Burden of proof of showing first use is on someone else. Here in the US we give rights to people/companies that were using the name first, not to the person who actually filed for the registration first. Kind of crazy right? Makes you think “well then what’s the point in even filing?” Well, here is the point. If you go through the process and get a registered trademark, and then someone comes out of the woodwork and says “hey, I was using that name first” then it is their job to actually prove that. And trying to prove it after someone else already has a registered trademark with the USPTO is an uphill battle, one that you want to be on the other side of.
4. Prevent imports of counterfeit goods. If you sell physical goods you know how important it is to maintain the quality and integrity of those goods. So nothing could be more frustrating than finding out there are counterfeit goods being produced and imported into the US that are a knockoff of yours. The good news is when you have a registered trademark you can record it with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop the import of counterfeit goods.
5. Use Your registered federal trademark when seeking foreign registration. Should you decide that you want to expand your brand and take it worldwide, having a registered trademark will help you do that. Having a US registered trademark can be used as evidence and leverage for obtaining a trademark internationally.
6. Use the ® Symbol. Having a registered trademark means you get to use the ® symbol in association with your goods and/or services. This serves to put others on notice that your mark is actually registered and not to even think about copying it in any way, shape or form.
7. Brand Protection and Goodwill. A registered trademark will not only protect others from not infringing on your trademark, but it also serves to protect the goodwill you have built with your community. Spending time to be known in an industry and then having to change your name is sure to cost you more than just the price of a rebrand. You have to spend time again making yourself known under your new name and brand which is a waste of your 2 most precious assets, time and money.
8. Status, exclusivity. We all like to work with brands that give us the feeling of status and exclusivity. And when you have that ® association with your name you are giving customers just that. When working with a brand that has made the investment of time and money investment to protect their brand I know I am working with a company that is reputable and cares about protecting themselves for the long run.
9. Benefit when looking to sell or get investments. You may not consider it now, but you never know if down the line you might want to sell your company or take on outside capital through investments. Having a registered trademark is such an asset to a company looking to do either of the aforementioned because intellectual property is a major part of an entire brand. Any investor or buyer is going to take a good hard look at what you actually own in your business and what can be transferred to them. They want to invest in something that is going to give them a return and knowing that a business can’t be infringed upon and lose their brand or goodwill is something that makes the company much more valuable.
10. Social Media Rights. The problem with social media handles is that anyone can get any name, as long as it was available at the time. This includes your business name. There is nothing more frustrating than having your business name associated with some random account that is inactive, or completely unrelated to your business. The good news is, most of these social media sites have procedures in place to stop name infringement and will make the person who owns the account under your name to stop using it. However, the kicker is they will ask for your registered trademark number that is filed with the USPTO.
Clearly the benefits of having a registered trademark outweigh the negatives. To secure and protect your brand functioning without one is taking unnecessary risks with your business.
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