The cost of a trademark infringement can be hefty, ranging from $250,000 to over $1 million. It’s essential to protect your trademark to ensure you receive the maximum protection available under the law.
Protecting your trademark also prevents potential competitors from using it unlawfully. As the trademark owner, this ensures that you will reap all of the benefits associated with your company’s identity.
Luckily, protecting your trademark isn’t as complicated as you might believe. As long as you take the right steps, it should be a relatively easy process.
Research Your Name
You must research your name to see if it’s already trademarked. You can do this by visiting the USPTO website and typing in your proposed trademark. Once you search, you’ll be given a list of results featuring all registered trademarks, both pending and approved, that match with what you searched for.
It’s also a good idea to check your website’s domain name to ensure no one else is using it. You can use a WHOIS history API to view a domain name’s history and see if it’s been assigned to another party during the past week, month, year, etc. This will prevent any potential conflicts down the road by ensuring that you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s trademark.
Include a Disclaimer in any Marketing Materials
Adding a disclaimer to all of your ads and marketing materials is one way to protect yourself if someone ends up challenging your trademark.
The disclaimer will let others know that the mark lacks federal protection and could prevent them from infringing on your rights while also making it clear that you’re not trying to commandeer any special treatment under the law.
One way to add a disclaimer is by including the ® symbol, along with your trademark or business name, within all of your print ads and marketing materials–with the ® symbol coming first. The symbol will inform everyone that you’ve applied for federal protection, but the application is still pending.
Decide Whether to Apply for Federal Protection
When deciding whether to apply for federal protection, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons and decide based on your company’s budget and needs. However, when in doubt, federal registration is your best route. It gives you an added level of protection as well as an easier time enforcing your rights.
Registering for state trademark protection gives you “constructive notice” throughout the state, but it doesn’t provide any enforcement benefits. Additionally, federal registration makes enforcing your rights a priority–while state registrations don’t have much priority outside the state in which they’re registered.
Register your trademark with the USPTO
It’s important to know that a trademark isn’t protected by state law but is safeguarded by federal law. Federal registration gives you an official “presumption of validity” and allows you to take legal action against any party who uses your trademark without consent.
To apply for federal protection, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website where you‘ll be asked to pay a fee. You can also register your trademark by mail, but it’s much easier to apply electronically. This will allow you to track the status of your application, and it will save you a ton of time.
Ensure that other companies don’t have similar trademarks
You can do this by searching for your trademark using an online search engine. Then, you should also search for variations on the word(s) used in your trademark, as well as any acronyms or abbreviations you consider using. Additionally, it’s a good idea to use the USPTO search engine.
In general, if two trademarks have enough similarities and could cause confusion among the public – they’re too alike, and one of them will eventually be rejected by trademark examiners. However, both companies can coexist with similar trademarks as long as the products and services they offer differ greatly.
If you find another business is infringing your trademark, you can’t send them a cease-and-desist letter out of the blue. Instead, you must first wait until their products or services are available for purchase in most states or about six months after they first used the trademark. Then, send them a letter by certified mail and wait for at least 30 days before initiating any legal action.
Protecting your trademark is critical because it can be worth a lot of money. Once it’s registered, you’ll also have an easier time enforcing your rights. And if someone else tries to infringe upon your trademark, you’ll be able to send them a cease-and-desist letter without any legal repercussions.
If you follow these steps, you should have no problem establishing your brand and protecting it from the same infringing actions that could come back to haunt you one day.