You may have a unique business that stands out from the crowd but if you don’t take the steps to trademark you may end up with a situation where a competitor copies your logo, name or tagline. This will undo a lot of hard work and can even lead to expensive legal issues.
Trademarking can be complex and it makes sense to complete the process with the help of a legal professional who understands how it all works.
Wondering how to trademark and why you need to? Here are some essential facts.
1. Why trademark?
Businesses brand themselves so they can be easily recognised and stand out from the competition. The trouble is it’s simple for someone to look at what you’re doing and then copy it.
Trademarking gives you ‘ownership’ of a phrase, logo, image, brand name or even a scent and prevents others from replicating what you do in order to make money.
For example, the phrase ‘I’M LOVIN’ IT’ is trademarked by McDonald’s. Paris Hilton trademarked the expression she became known for; “That’s hot”. This doesn’t mean nobody is allowed to say those words out loud… just that they can’t be used for commercial purposes. The lighting on the Eiffel Tower is trademarked so people can’t sell images of it lit up at night. And athletes are officially prevented from copying sprinter Usain Bolt’s signature victory pose.
If you forget to trademark, it’s possible for someone else to trademark your name/logo etc and then take action against you, even though you were the first to market.
2. Not everything can be trademarked
For example, you can’t trademark the word ‘lawyer’. It is far too broad and there are other operators who have the right to use this term.
When you go through the trademark process, you’ll first need to make sure what you want to trademark isn’t already protected from use by someone else. Many businesses have gone a long way down the branding path before they realise they can’t use the name or slogan they want.
With that being said, if you find a trademark similar to yours, you might still be able to claim it for yourself — if your business is very different. For example; Straight Line Graphic Design vs Straight Line Business Coaching. These businesses would not compete with each other and therefore may both be able to apply for a trademark around the wording ‘Straight Line’.
Facebook has trademarked the word ‘face’. However this only applies to social media companies that may be considered competitors.
3. Trademarks aren’t automatically approved
The trademark process involves application, review and approval. You may be asked to provide evidence that you require the trademark and you may need to supply a logo as well as a business name, plus additional information about your business and what you do.
There is also a period where other operators have the right to object to your trademark before it is finalised.
Because the process takes a while and involves a review process, there are costs involved. You’ll have to pay to apply for a trademark and to register it.
There are also costs involved with engaging a lawyer who knows how to trademark. However, when you consider that following the process correctly can save your business from being eclipsed by a competitor, it’s worth the money.
4. Trademarks expire
Businesses come and go and trademarks don’t last forever either. Generally, the validity of a trademark is ten years from approval.
5. Trademarks aren’t patents (or copyright)
Trademarks protect a name, logo, jingle etc that separates your brand from other operators and gives you the rights to use it exclusively.
A patent is more around a concept or invention. You may come up with a new computer program innovation and patent it so that nobody can take it to the market before you.
The term copyright covers the content your business creates. For example, if you write a guidebook, it counts as original work and can’t be recreated by others.
Need help to figure out how to trademark? The team at Crest Lawyers will help you figure out if your application will be approved and streamline the experience so you can focus on other things. Reach out to us today.
Disclaimer: The content contained in this news post is general in nature and is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.