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A trademark can play an important role in establishing a company’s brand identity. Despite that, many companies neglect to take the necessary steps to ensure their trademarks are properly registered and secured against infringement, often because they aren’t sure what those steps are.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies a supplier of a specific product or line of products. By comparison, service marks identify providers of services rather than products. It differs from a copyright, which is used to protect authorship.
If you plan to use a trademark for a new venture, begin thinking about the design and wording of that trademark while you’re still in the planning stages. This is the time to conduct an exhaustive search of your mark to ensure it’s available. Failure to do so could mean that all your marketing efforts that are based on that phrase, word or symbol are worthless if another company has already registered the trademark.
A trademark is not the same as a trade name; registering your business name is no guarantee that the name isn’t infringing on someone else’s trademark, so a search should be conducted prior to promoting your business’ name to ensure it’s free and clear. You can do it yourself by searching the Arizona Secretary of State’s database of trade names. An attorney can help you with searches outside Arizona.
In addition to trademarks and service marks, there are also collective marks which are used by associations and organizations, and certification marks, which apply to businesses and groups that perform third-party testing (the UL™ trademark of Underwriters Laboratories is a good example of a certification mark).
Trademark registration is done through the Patent & Trademark Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and because it can be a time-consuming and somewhat confusing process, an attorney can save you time and money. He or she file can the proper paperwork to ensure your application is accurate and approved without problems.
Once registered, your trademark enjoys all the protections available under federal law. Trademark law protects you against infringement by establishing a timeline of who made claim to the name, logo or symbol first in order to prevent your competitors from using the same trademark. The law also prevents other companies from using marks that are “confusingly similar” to consumers.
While it’s true you don’t have to register your business’ trademark, doing so offers several powerful advantages to help establish your ownership of the trademark, including public notification that the mark has been registered, ownership that is recognized nationwide, and the exclusive right to use the trademark in association with the type of business and goods described in the initial registration application.
Mark Briggs Phoenix Attorney knows a registered trademark can become a valuable asset as a business’ reputation grows. That’s one of the reasons why trademarks – unlike copyrights and patents – can last indefinitely as long as their registration is renewed when it becomes due.