At its most basic, 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 another. On a deeper level, a trademark can come to embody an entire corporation, becoming so enmeshed with that identity that it instantly instills an emotional response for consumers when they see it on products. A well-designed trademark can be used to convey, in a single image, a message to consumers regarding your company, its products, services and reputation. A trademark that becomes synonymous with the company makes it possible for consumers to identify your products at a glance, helping to differentiate you from your competitors. 

For this reason alone, you need to make sure you’re protecting your trademark.

Here are five things you should take into consideration when it comes to protecting your trademark¹:

  1. Think it through – Your trademark is an extension of your company brand, which is why you need to make sure it says exactly what you want about who you are and what you do. Keep in mind that trademarks can potentially have incredibly long lives, and should be designed with a timeless aesthetic in mind. 

  2. Search for it - Before you start using your trademark in business, do your research to make sure it’s not already in use. Trademarks can be denied by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a wide variety of reasons, including similarity to a mark already in use in commerce. Spend a little time and money up front to make sure your trademark is unique by investing in a clearance search. 

  3. Register it with the USPTO – Once you know your trademark is unique to you and your brand, register it. Registering your trademark is relatively easy. A trademark is similar in nature to a property asset. It receives many of the same benefits, including value appreciation over time and the ability for you to sell, license, or use it as a security interest should you plan to secure a loan for your business. Ensuring a proper registration ahead of time makes this easier and safer. Maintaining your trademark is important. Check with your IP attorney on the necessary maintenance and timing for the filing paperwork with the USPTO.

  4. Register it with customs – Make sure your trademark is protected both within and outside the US. This  may help cut down on the possibility of counterfeiters trying to take advantage of your good name. If you plan to do any business outside the continental United States, or have any products manufactured overseas, have your trademark registered not only with the USPTO but also with the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  Once your trademark is registered with the CBP, they automatically look for any products bearing your logo as they come across the US border from Canada, Mexico, and along the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean ports. Trademark registrations are generally territorial, which means a trademark that is registered with the United States is only protected within the United States. You should also consider registering your trademark with any other country and its customs and border protection agencies where you do business with outside of the United States. 

  5. Monitor your Trademark - As mentioned, your trademark is a representation of your company and brand, which is why safeguarding it is important. Part of that safeguard should be making sure you know exactly how and where your mark is used across the globe. Having your trademark registered with the USPTO and recorded with the CBP are critical steps for ensuring trademark safety, but they aren’t foolproof, especially when it comes to overseas and online markets. Setting up a watch service to constantly monitor your trademark in an increasingly globalized economy can help curb the possibility of brand dilution and knock offs.

If you’re wondering how your trademark is being used online, click below for a free brand audit or demo on our solutions.  Our team of experts will create a custom report just for you detailing exactly how and where your trademark is being used.

 [1] This blog post provides generalized information and does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client communication. Each situation is unique and requires consultation with suitable professionals.

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