Paula Celestino, Founder @ SPRK Media Group Inc.
Imagine having a lawyer show up at your doorstep to tell you that your brand has been served after working on that identity for two to five years. You learn it’s because another company in your industry uses a similar name or logo, and if they don’t file a case to make you stop using that name, they might have problems with competition or confusion for their customers.
What is the most logical thing you would do at that moment? Of course, you should get a lawyer if you don’t have one. Now imagine that after the whole case, the court’s order is that you should change your brand name after you have invested a lot of energy and time into building the brand to its current status—not to mention the thousands of dollars you have spent on your brand identity and branding system. Think of the kind of pain that comes with having to start everything all over again with a new name. Well, that could happen to you if you don’t trademark your brand.
Nobody likes to fight in court in order to keep their company name, but it keeps happening to brands across the world. For example, in 2016, the French design house Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit against a Korean fast-food restaurant called Louis Vuiton Dak. The court ordered a change of name because it was too similar to the designer’s brand. Louis Vuitton has the upper hand in the case because they had their business name trademarked earlier.
In order to avoid such a nightmare from happening to your company, there are some things you need to know about trademarks and how to really go about them, which I have simplified below.
But first, let’s get into the basics.
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What is a trademark?
A trademark is a symbol, word or group of words that a company or product has legally registered or that it has become known for through use. It could be a word, phrase, symbol, design, image, slogan or even the shape of a product. The trademark owner has exclusive rights to use it in connection with goods and services.
A trademark is also called an intellectual property mark. Its purpose is to assign a unique identifier to goods and services so that buyers can determine with certainty who made them and where they came from.
Now that you understand what trademark means, why is it important to trademark your brand or product instead of leaving it like any other brand across the world that operates without a trademark?
There are many brands out there that are into one business or the other, but the majority do not have a unique way that their target audience can always identify their product. Asking why it is important to trademark your brand is almost the same as asking why your brand should be unique.
Let’s dive into the importance of trademarking your business:
• A trademark helps protect your brand from being sued by others who use similar assets. You can’t trademark something that isn’t unique or original to you; that’s why it’s crucial to give your product or service a distinguishing feature that rivals won’t be able to replicate easily.
• It helps you build equity within your industry by showing people that you’re credible and trustworthy. This means that if another brand tries to imitate your product or service, they’ll have a hard time convincing customers to buy their version because they won’t have the same name recognition as yours, just like it is hard for any other brand to copy or steal any product or design of Apple, Nike or any other trademarked brand.
• Trademarks are useful when filing legal documents such as contracts because they give you more clout than just using a generic term.
Now that you know how important it is to trademark your brand, what are the basic steps to doing so?
Simple Ways To Trademark Your Brand
After years of being in the full branding business and witnessing what different brands have gone through just to keep a name they have branded and been using, there are ways we simplify branding.
When a client selects our agency to do their branding, it is our responsibility to ensure that the proposed brand name and identity are unique and won’t cause a trademark nightmare for our clients in the future. There is a simple process for this.
Before presenting name ideas to clients, it’s important to do a quick trademark search and check domain availability. For this step, we use the free website trademarkia.com. Following that research, choose a name that will not cause any issues for the client. Before we start any designs, we have a naming presentation with some preview visualizations for the client to visually understand the proposed name concepts. Then, it’s time to design a logo.
As a final step, use a trusted service to start the registration process for both the name and the logo. I’d recommend working with a lawyer on this. (Our team has had a good experience using trademarky.io’s free services, but anyone can do a free search on USPTO.gov.) By combining both brand assets, you will save thousands of dollars and have peace of mind to continue investing in your brand.
A trademark can help you distinguish your products or services from those of your competitors, and it can also give you a legal weapon to fight against infringement. Although the process of applying for a trademark can be complex and time-consuming, it’s worth the effort to safeguard your brand identity. And with a clear system of brand trademarking, you have peace of mind knowing that your brand name and logo are yours to keep.
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Author: Paula Celestino, Forbes Councils Member