What Is a Trademark and Why Should You Register One?
A trademark consists of a word, phrase, design, logo, symbol, slogan, or a combination of these elements that identify and differentiate your business’s product or service from competitors. Perhaps without realizing it, consumers rely on trademarks to recognize specific products and services and differentiate them from similar offerings.
When you start to use a trademark to distinguish your product or service, you automatically obtain some trademark protections under Common Law. These protections are inherently limited and only apply to the geographic area (or areas) in which you are doing business.
Registering your company’s trademarks is always in your best interest. By securing federal trademark registration, you will receive national protection. No person or entity can lawfully infringe on a federally registered trademark anywhere in the United States, even if the mark holder is not specifically offering their product or service in that area.
Additionally, you will have vastly more enforcement options if your trademarks are federally registered. If someone exploits your federal trademarks without permission, your business can sue them in federal court and seek to recover monetary damages.
We now operate in a global commercial environment where companies routinely conduct business throughout the world. This reality has made obtaining international protection for trademarks even more vital.
If you are planning to do business internationally, you will need to be fully aware of the intellectual property laws of each country you plan to do business with. Just because you have a trademark in one country does not necessarily mean the trademark will apply in another country. In fact, your trademark could infringe on an existing trademark in another country. You must conduct thorough due diligence to avoid these and other conflicts.
To avoid allegations of trademark infringement from an international business, you should:
- Perform extensive research. Most countries offer tools that allow you to search their trademark registries. Check to see if your trademarks match or are extremely similar to any trademarks in the countries in which you are hoping to do business. Look out for synonyms and alternate spellings in addition to exact matches.
- Avoid potentially misleading trademarks. Do not pick a trademark that is fundamentally similar to an existing trademark, especially if that trademark is internationally or locally known.
- Register the trademark internationally. International trademark registration is in no way automatic, even if you register your mark in the United States. After registering your mark in the U.S., you (as an individual or on behalf of your business) can register it internationally through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Under the Madrid Treaty and Protocol, your internationally registered trademark will be recognized in over 180 countries.
- Discuss the matter with the Veterans Advocacy Law Group. If you are concerned about choosing a mark, our national Veterans trademark attorney can help you select and register a “safe” option.
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