TO TRADEMARK OR NOT TO TRADEMARK?

Many clients wonder whether they need to trademark their business name. A trademark is a legal protection given to a business name or slogan and allows the owner to prevent others from using the same name or slogan. The purpose of a trademark is to give the owner of the mark exclusive use of the name or slogan so as to distinguish itself from its competitors. Trademarks provide protections against counterfeits or cheats trading on a good business name (and cashing in on someone else’s marketing) and also allow a business to avoid having someone else operate under the same name which helps to avoid confusion amongst consumers.

For example, the business name “Google” is a trademark of Google, Inc. This trademark grants Google, Inc. the exclusive use of this name in their industry and prevents a competitor from simply opening up a website or business and offering products or services with the good “Google” name. This also protects consumers from doing business with someone they weren’t intending to do business with and also prevents other businesses from benefiting off of someone else’s marketing and brand recognition.

When deciding whether to trademark your business name or service you must first determine whether you want your name protected in the marketplace from use by others. An attorney operating as Mathew Sorensen Attorney at Law may not worry about someone operating under his business name and may see little benefit from a trademark. But a business named something like Paramount Real Estate Brokerage which conducts marketing under that name, maintains a website under that name, provides services under that name, and which employs many agents using that name would see much more benefit from a trademark. Trademark protection is done on a national basis so when your trademark is approved it grants national protection of your name or slogan. Those who use the name in violation of the trademark are in violation of law and can be sued by the owner of the mark for damages.

When applying for a trademark keep in mind the following items.

  1. Trademark Availability- Make sure nobody else has filed a trademark with your word/name. This can be searched at the uspto.gov website. Keep in mind that there can be similar names or marks in different industries (see point 3 below).
  2. Trademark Must be Unique- The mark may not be merely descriptive. For example, you cannot expect to trademark the business name Boats, Inc. to sell boats as that is merely descriptive of what you do and doesn’t distinguish your business from others. A name like Eagle Boats, Inc. on the other hand is distinguishable since your use of the word Eagle in the industry could be unique.
  3. Trademarks Are Granted by Industry/Class- A trademark is granted based on the industry your business is in (called class by USPTO). What this means is that your mark is protected in your area of business but is not protected across all businesses and product lines. Fro example, the word Paramount may be registered by one group in the USPTO entertainment class as Paramount Pictures but may be registered and owned by a totally different group as Paramount Real Estate in the USPTO real estate class. Keep in mind that your business may cross over into two classes and you may want the mark approved in more than one class.
  4. Trademarks Must be In Use- The trademark must be in use in the economy (on a website, in a brochure) before the mark will be approved and this use must be shown to the USPTO with your filing. You can also state an intent to put the mark in commerce without actually doing it yet but then you need to go back to the USPTO to show the use later and this is much more of a hassle. It also costs more in fees.
  5. Trademark Cost- The USPTO fee to do a trademark is $325 per class. Our fees at the law firm are $750 for all the work, filings and consulting related to the mark.
  6. Trademark Time Frame and Maintenance- It typically takes about 9 months on average to get approval of a trademark with the USPTO. After the mark is approved you can start using TM next to your name or slogan (if you desire). You also have to show continued use of the mark to the USPTO every 5 years or so to maintain the mark. If you fail to show continued use the mark expires and may be picked up by someone else.

Trademarks are a great way to build long-term protection of your business name or product/service. They are a necessity for many businesses that invest significant marketing dollars into their business name or products/services. If you want to learn more, please contact the law firm at 435-586-9366 to speak with one of the attorneys.