Rebranding your business is a huge undertaking. It can be a fun and exciting process if you’re simply setting out to improve your company’s aesthetic, but it’s not something that you want to be forced to do. The best way to avoid this headache and protect yourself against a potential lawsuit for infringement is to trademark your business’s name and any other important phrases or product names.
What is a Trademark?
According to Corpnet, a trademark is “a word, phrase, name, or symbol” that identifies your company, product, or service. This is different from a copyright, which protects authored artistic works, and a patent, which covers ideas and inventions.
How to Trademark your Business
The first step to trademarking your business’s name is to make sure that no one has beat you to it. A quick Google search can help you find out if any other companies are using the same name that your company is employing. If you find that there are multiple parties using the same name, check the United States Trademark & Patent Office’s website to see if another trademark has been registered. If it hasn’t, you’re good to go!
Next, you need to decide what you’re trademarking. You can trademark things like your business’s name, your tagline, the names of your products and/or services, and even your logo. You’ll need to let the USTPO know whether your trademark will include words only, or if there is also a visual component such as logos or submarks, which they classify as “special form drawings.”
When you apply, you’ll need to submit files for any special form drawings. If you are already doing businesses and using these visual elements, you will also need to provide examples of how they are used in your branding or marketing.
You’ll also need to determine your business’s classification. The USPTO’s online software will try to match you with the correct category based on keywords that you input. Be as specific as possible for the best chance of having your trademark approved.
One you’ve obtained your trademark, you’ll need to make sure to use your trademarked words, phrases, or images regularly. This is because the USPTO determined trademarking rights by use, so if you are not utilizing your trademark regularly and another company attempts to trademark the same phrase because they are using it more frequently, you could lose your rights.
After your fifth year with your trademark, you will need to file a “Declaration of Use” to show that you are using your trademark in public-facing collateral on a regular basis. After nine years of having your name, logo, or tagline trademarked, you will need to file another one of these declarations as well as an application for renewal. You have a 60-day grace period from the nine-year mark in which to file these.
While the application and maintenance required for trademarks can seem like just one more thing to worry about, trademarking the names of your company, products, and services is a great way to protect yourself against lawsuits. It also ensures that you are protected in the event that another business begins to use the same name as you and is well worth the peace of mind it affords.