Introduction In the realm of television, certain characters and settings leave an indelible mark on viewers' minds....
Trademark Law Does Not Care About You. It Cares About Your Customers
When your customers encounter goods or services marketed under your name or logo, they know that you are the source of those goods or services, and they expect them to live up to your reputation. Trademark law seeks to prevent consumers from being confused about the source of the goods or services they consume. The legal analysis can get complex, but trademark infringement boils down to whether use of a name or logo is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source or origin of the goods.
Because Trademark law cares more about your customers than you…
You Do not Need to Register Your Trademark to Have Trademark Rights
Unlike most countries, the United States does not require you to file and register your trademark before you have rights to exclusive use of your mark. As soon as you start operating in the market you have the right to prevent a late comer from using a name or mark that is confusingly similar to your trademark. When making financial decisions for your business, it is important to understand that you do not need a registration to have (some) trademark rights.
Trademark Registration Can Prevent Huge Financial Waste
We see this far too often – a client will use their trademark for years gaining a real reputation in the market before they file an application to register their trademark only to discover that another company across the country registered a confusingly similar trademark six months earlier.
Registering your trademark helps your business get ahead of problems. Many small businesses are unaware of the potential problems they may have until they receive a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney on the other side of the country threatening legal action if the name of your business is not changed. This letter could cost your business thousands of dollars in legal fees or force you to rebrand your company. You can get ahead of this by talking to an attorney that will search the USPTO database for similar names and logos, who can then suggest small changes to differentiate your mark from the registered mark.
Even if your name is identical to an already registered trademark, you may still be able to register your trademark because…
Trademarks are Organized into Classifications (i.e., Classes)
Trademarks are divided into 45 categories – 34 for products and 11 for services. A trademark in one class will generally not prevent someone from having a similar mark in a different class.
The categories are meant to make it easier to evaluate whether the use of two similar marks is likely to cause consume confusion. For example, notwithstanding the similarity of the names (and many, many frat parties), there is no likelihood of confusion between the University of Southern California Trojans (Class 41) and Trojan condoms (Class 10). Some uses of a mark are applicable to multiple classes. Trojan condoms is registered in Class 10 (condoms, adult sexual aids) Class 5 (personal lubricants), and Class 3 (Body Sprays, Cologne).
When filing an application for registration of a trademark, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) charges an additional fee for each class in which you claim use of the mark.
Trademarks create Identity and Get your Message Across Fast
Of all your five senses, the human brain gives the most attention to visual perception. When your customers see your trademark, all the goodwill you have built in your reputation is instantly conveyed to them. Your trademark gets your business’s message immediately across to your customers and allows them to associate your business with the quality services and products your business offers.
The marketplace is very crowded, and it may be hard to distinguish your business from your competitors. By having a trademark, you are able to efficiently communicate to your customer and capture your customer’s attention. A trademark allows your business’s products and services to stand out over your competitors. Your brand could be the critical factor in driving a customer’s purchase decision.
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