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Trademarking 101

A trademark is a name or design belonging to a particular company, used on its products. When another company uses that particular name or design on its products as well, it can be sued for what is called trademark infringement by the other company to which these intangible assets belong. This offers a perfect way for companies, especially the big ones, to protect their brands from infringement. However, for a trademark to be effective, it must first be registered otherwise it can be hard to establish the liable party in case of a breach. So, are you wondering how to trademark your brand? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of how to obtain a valid trademark so your brand identity is safe from theft:

Choose Your Brand Name, Logo or Design

The first step to obtain a valid trademark is to come up with a name, logo, slogan or design that is not already taken and registered by another company. You may have to perform a wide research to make sure that what you are going to register is absolutely unique. Alternatively, you can reach out to any reliable professional search firm to help you with this daunting and time-consuming task.

File an Application

Once you have ensured that your proposed brand identity does not conflict with any other existing one, proceed to the next step which is to file an application. Go to online and search for your country’s patent and trademark office’s website. Here you will find an application form to fill out with your company details including your address and contact information. They may also require you to provide an overview of the type of business that you run, as well as the products or services you sell. Submit the form along with a scanned copy of your proposed trademark plus the application fee and wait for approval.

When in Doubt Hire a Lawyer

Alternatively, you can hire a trademark attorney. In fact most applicants use these legal experts for advice regarding filing an application and even the proper use of their trademarks. Not all applications go through successfully with or without an attorney, but working with an attorney who is experienced in this area increases the chances of your application getting approved. A private trademark attorney can also help you avoid many potential pitfalls you might not have even considered.

So, What’s the Difference?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Think brand names, slogans, and logos. The term “trademark” is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.  Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks do not expire after a set term of years.  Instead, a trademark can last forever, so long as the owner continues to use the mark in commerce to indicate the source of goods and services.

Must all marks be registered? No, but federal registration has several advantages, including a notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark, a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services set forth in the registration.

A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.  Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions.  The duration of patent protection depends on the type of patent granted: 14 years for design patents and 20 years for utility and plant patents.

A copyright protects works of authorship that have been tangibly expressed in a physical form.  Think songs, books, movies, and works of art.   The duration of copyright protection depends on several factors.  For works created by an individual, protection lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years.  For works created anonymously, pseudonymously, and for hire, protection lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

Now You Know

Now that you know how to trademark your brand, you can start the process that will lead you towards obtaining a valid one for your business’ logo, name, slogan or any other distinguishing mark. Hiring an attorney is the easiest way to get results quickly, but you can go it alone if you choose to.

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