At some point during the startup of a business, you may ask yourself “Do I need to file a trademark application for my brand?”
The conservative answer is “Yes.” A trademark application and successful federal registration is necessary to protect your brand. A trademark is an important part of any strong brand. And, a trademark application is necessary to register your mark with the government and give it the most legal protection possible throughout the United States.
In fact, without federal trademark registration, your use of your mark might be limited to a small geographic area or a small number of products.
A trademark is different than a brand in that your brand represents much more than just a mark. Overall, your brand may be very similar to a competitor’s but distinguished very easily by your trademark. You cannot file a trademark application for a brand, only for certain elements of the brand that can be protected under trademark law.
With regard to brand identity, you can consider your quality of service, look and feel of your business environment, corporate culture, color schemes, decor, web strategy and other factors in creating your brand. You may even choose to model the personality of your brand after another successful company.
If you are opening a fast food restaurant, for example, you might want to create an image of consistency and speed and use restaurant friendly colors like red and yellow. Compare this scheme to those of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. These brands all use a similar overall brand image to compete and be successful in their industry.
You Must Distinguish Your Brand
Nevertheless, you will want to distinguish your brand to avoid confusion and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. This is where a trademark can play a key role in your brand as a potentially vital part (but only a part) of your overall branding strategy. Thus, filing a trademark application to register your mark is an important step to consider.
A Trademark Can be a Word, Phrase, Symbol, Design or Combination Thereof
A trademark by definition identifies a source of products or services and distinguishes the source from another. Thus, a trademark can become a vital intellectual property asset of the business, as it is what consumers will use to identify your products and services among the crowd, return for more, and spread your brand to others.
You should begin developing your brand in combination with a trademark at the earliest stages of your business development. Many businesses historically have succeeded in the long-term because of the strength of their brand. An intent to use trademark application can be used to initiate registration of your trademark before you even begin using it.
Video– Introduction to the USPTO and Trademark Basics
Explains the differences between patents, trademarks, and copyrights
With regard to company value and trademarks, Coca-Cola and Pepsi provide good examples. These companies continue to thrive while being in highly a competitive business. Their main products, soft drinks and water, are easy to produce commodities that anyone can make. In fact, many competitors make a cheaper product that you probably could not even recognize the difference in a taste test. Nonetheless, Coca-Cola and Pepsi remain leaders in sales because of their brands and trademarks.
MillwardBrown has compiled the BrandZ ratings for 2011 and found the Coca-Cola brand to be worth $74 billion and Pepsi worth almost $13 billion.
Your First Trademark Should Usually be Word and Not a Design
We recommend starting with a word mark before concerning yourself with trademarking a design or logo. This helps you to establish a trademark that is broad and easy to use in designating your product or service and it’s source. Word marks can be used as adjectives in communicating about your products (Ex. the Acme widget), and word marks can be used in domain names and other communication between people, including social media.
If your trademark will be used for a service type of business, then you may sometimes hear it referred to as a Service Mark. That’s just another accepted way of expressing it and being clear in how the mark is being used, i.e., for services. There is no technical or legal requirement to use the term service mark.
So, start the brand development for your new business the right way by selecting a good trademark, doing a clearance search for your mark, and filing a trademark application.