Using A Mark You Cannot Trademark - Be Careful

By Richard Chapo

When coming up with a logo or mark, there are plenty of options. Sometimes, people make a choice that cannot be trademarked and this leads to problems.

When you start a business, you probably have visions of huge success. At the same time, it can be difficult to plan for it when you are sitting in your home office or garage and just getting started. Unfortunately, this is when many of the most important steps are required to be taken. One is picking a mark to identify your products or services.

A mark is simply something that identifies your products or services to consumers. Classic examples of this include “coca cola”, the Nike Swoosh and many others. When you see one of these marks, you immediately identify them with the company and product in question. In legal terms, the mark is indicative of a certain quality of products or services.

When coming up with your mark, you have to be careful. Not everything can be trademarked. For instance, “Google” is unique and clearly something that can be trademarked. When you see the Google logo, you know it refers to a search engine that allows people to find things on the web. Now, what if Google was instead called “search engine?” The phrase is already commonly used and associated with other sites providing search functions for consumers. As a result, it cannot be trademarked.

So, why does all of this matter. Try to look into the future for your business. What if you become a huge success? Remember, Microsoft started with a couple of people and so did Google. You could be the next one. That being said, what if you “go big” with a mark that cannot be trademarked? Other businesses will be able to use your mark! If you want to talk about a business disaster, this is it.

Imagine if Google could not be trademarked. Every other search engine could use the term in their marketing and on their web pages. This would cause massive confusion among consumers. More importantly, those consumers would be diverted to competitors of Google. Do you think that would hurt Google’s bottom line? You bet.

When starting a business, try to use distinct names and logos that are not common place. Get your trademarks. As the business grows, consumers will come to know your mark and identify it with your product or service. This, of course, is the key to getting them to come back and buy from you.

Richard A. Chapo is with - providing trademark registration services.

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