Small Business Tip: Trademarks

For those who own, or want to own, a small business: DETERMINE IF YOU NEED A TRADEMARK OR SERVICE MARK FOR YOUR BUSINESS. 

Business owners routinely ask questions about the names, logos and phrases they use to sell, advertise, and promote their goods and services. This brings up the issue of what is a trademark/service mark and what can be trademarked.

A name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or any combination thereof that a business associates with its goods and/or services can be projected as a trademark. By way of example, McDonald’s, Inc. uses several trademarks that we are all familiar with. The “golden arches” is a trademarked logo that is known worldwide. The phrase “i’m lovin’ it”TM is also world-famous.

Trademarks perform a dual role for a business. Trademarks add value to the business through branding, but they also protect the goodwill associated with the business. Trademarks increase brand recognition by distinguishing the products or services of a business from those of its competitors and make it easier for customers to identify the source of the products or services. Furthermore, trademarks and service marks are enforceable against competitors that try to encroach on the goodwill of the business and confuse customers by selling a competing product of lesser quality under the same brand name. If a business obtains a federal trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), then the owner of that mark has the exclusive nationwide ownership of the trademark and the presumption that the trademark is valid over others. Once a trademark is registered, that mark will appear in trademark search reports, which should discourage others from proceeding with the trademark registration of the same or similar trademark, and the USPTO will refuse trademark registration to any trademark it deems confusingly similar to an already registered trademark.

At Hymson Goldstein & Pantiliat, PLLC, we have experienced trademark law attorneys who can help you reserve and obtain a trademark or service mark for your business.

Written by Attorney Lori Brown,

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