With the advent of digital communications, the proliferation and dissemination of ideas have reached critical mass. Things move fast, and what is only a hint of a marketable product or service one day can be gaining a following the next.
With all of this going on, some important steps can fall to the wayside, and the digital velocity of ideas can quickly turn from an asset to a major headache when some quick-on-the-draw competitor is cashing in on your intellectual property rights.
What are we talking about here? Enhancing your intellectual property protection with trademark registration.
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a distinctive word, phrase, logo, graphic symbol or other device that is used to identify the source of a product or service. The purpose of a trademark is to distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors, in other words to be a unique source identifier for your product or service. Different from a copyright — which protects a creative work such as a book or song — and a patent — which protects an invention — trademarks protect the elements that make up your company’s brand.
Think of your favorite brands, and one of the first things which comes to mind will most likely be their trademark. Can you imagine Nike without the swoosh, Apple without its signature logo, or McDonald’s without the golden arches?
Why should you register your trademark?
Although using your mark in commerce gives rise to some common law rights, registering your mark is a critical step in building a strong brand. Registering a trademark greatly enhances your ability to enforce your trademark rights in court. Registration also puts the rest of the country on notice that you are using the mark in connection with a certain class of goods or services. And, perhaps most importantly, registration give you nationwide priority over others who later attempt to use a confusingly similar mark.
Registering your mark can also help you assert your right to your online space. Cybersquatting on a URL is illegal, but only if you can prove rightful ownership of the space in question and show that the owner is using it in bad faith.
What can you trademark?
When considering applying for a trademark, think beyond the obvious — the logo, name, tagline of your company. For example, colors and combinations of colors can be trademarked. Have a unique shade that’s associated exclusively with your company? Apply for a trademark, or you may not be the only cerulean blue player in your space for long.
Also, be sure to trademark sub-brands — names of products or services under your parent brand.
You can also trademark phrases and words that uniquely describe your intellectual property. Are you the world’s first automatic carpet shampooer? Then you should be The World’s First Automatic Carpet Shampooer™!
Don’t forget “fanciful” (read “made-up”) words to make sure everyone knows, for example, that your microwave falafel brand is the Lebon-easiest!™
As you can see, trademarks are invaluable assets in managing your company’s brand and reputation. Your intellectual property rights are valuable, and unfortunately the internet has made it easier to infringe these rights.