What You Need to Know About Trademarks
By Jo Ann Joy
Once you have trademarked your identity, your company has the right to prevent others from using a trademark this is similar or confusing. That means that no one can use a trademark that can be confused with yours. This protects your company identity, reputation, and market share. The term of a trademark is 20 years.
Trademark protection can be obtained two ways. First, trademark protection is available for inexpensive registration in most states. Contact your state’s secretary of state to find out the procedure for registering your trademark in the state where your business operates. Secondly, trademark protection can be obtained from the federal government for approximately $335. This can be done online at the website for the United States Patent and Trademark Office website www.uspto.gov. The forms can all be completed and submitted online.
Only certain words or symbols can be protected as trademarks. The word or symbol must identify your company as the creator of the product or service with which the trademark is used. You cannot trademark a word that is commonly used to describe your product or service. For example, you cann trademark the word “consultant” if you are a consultant. You can, however, trademark the name of your consulting company.
Colors, sounds, scents, and packaging can be protected as trademarks. To be trademarked, those items must be shown to be associated with the particular product or service that your company sells. It must identify and distinguish your product or service. The design and appearance of products and their packaging or labeling can be trademarked.
Before you can obtain a trademark, you must search the website to determine that no other company has trademarked the same or similar item. The first company to obtain trademark rights owns the trademark, and the can sue another other company that uses their trademarked item. Before obtaining a trademark, you may also want to find out if you can use that item in your domain name so that you will have the same identifier online.
While your trademark application is pending, you should use TM on the item. Once you have trademark protection, you should use the “circled R” symbol to put the public on notice that you own the item. Trademark protection may also be available internationally, but you will have to trademark in each individual country where your product will be sold. Before you apply for a trademark in another country, be sure the country will enforce your exclusive right to use the trademarked item. If you register your trademark on the internet as a domain name, you will have trademark protection.
Trademark protection is important and it is valuable. If another company uses your company’s trademark, it can divert business away from your company. It may also damage your company’s reputation if the other company has shabby operating procedures. The estimated value of counterfeit goods in the U.S. is approximately $250 billion, so be proactive in protecting your company’s trademark.
Jo Ann Joy, Esq., MBA, CEO Copyright 2006 Indigo Business Solutions. All rights reserved.
About the author
Jo Ann Joy is the CEO and owner of Indigo Business Solutions, a legal and business consulting firm. Indigo Business Solutions is a “one stop shop” for small businesses, because we offer both legal and business services. We can provide all the professional services that a business requires, and they won't have to be "referred out" and pay another professional.
Jo Ann has a law degree, an MBA, and a degree in Economics. She is a strategic business attorney who works closely with clients to greatly improve their chance of success. Her background includes commercial, corporate, contract and real estate law, and she has experience in accounting, financial planning, mortgages, marketing, product development, banking, and business planning and strategies. She ran a successful business for 10 years, and she has written and given presentations on many different legal and business subjects.
If you have questions about legal, business or tax topics, please visit our website www.IndigoBusinessSolutions.net Phone: 602-663-7007; Fax: 602-324-7582.
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