Small businesses often overlook protection for their most valuable assets, their trademarks. Learn why it is important to take trademark rights seriously before making a costly mistake.
Small businesses with tight profit margins and small budgets often overlook protecting one of their most valuable assets, their trademarks. It is important for small business owners to know what a trademark is, why they are valuable, the difference between registered and unregistered trademarks, and why they should seek trademark registration for their most valuable trademarks.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is any word or symbol that allows consumers to know the source of a product or service. For example, Coca-Cola is a famous trademark for cola products and McDonald’s is a famous service mark for fast food services.
Trademarks are different from copyrights and patents. Copyrights prevent creative works from being copied, for example music and novels. Patents protect inventions from being used by competitors such as a new microprocessor or hybrid engine. Trademarks are company or product names and brands.
For a full explanation of what a trademark is, visit our blog post here.
What Trademarks are Most Important to a Small Business?
The most important trademark for a small business is their company name. As a company grows and becomes more well known among relevant consumers, it builds brand equity. The brand equity in a company name is protected by trademark law. In other words, a new company cannot come along, steal the company name, and hijack the brand equity in the name that was built over time.
After the company name, the next most important trademarks for a small business are the names of their best selling products or services. For example, McDonald’s, the company name, is the fast food restaurant’s most important trademark. Their second most important trademark is probably BIG MAC, their famous and best selling product over many years.
Are you unsure what trademarks are most important to your small business or whether you should file a trademark application? View our full blog detailing when trademark owners should consider filing a trademark application.
Unregistered Marks vs. Registered Marks
In the U.S., trademark rights are arise from use of the mark in commerce. In other words, when a small business first begins using its company name to sell goods or services, they acquire “common law” trademark rights.
Common law trademark rights are limited compared to the benefits of a federal trademark registration. Unregistered trademarks only receive trademark protection in the geographic region they are used. Registered marks receive trademark protection across the U.S. and provide additional benefits not provided to unregistered marks.
Benefits of Trademark Registration
There are many reasons why a small business owner should apply for federal trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their most important trademarks, especially for their company name. The best way for small business owners to protect their brand and company name is to file for a trademark registration and enjoy the benefits it provides.
Benefits of a federal trademark registration include:
Trademark protection across the United States
The right to use the trademark registration symbol ®
Prevent competitors from using the same or a similar mark
Defend against trademark bullying by large corporations
Presumption of ownership and exclusive use of the mark
A trademark registration makes it easier for small business owners to enforce their trademark rights locally and across the nation, defend bullying cases from large corporations, make licensing deals less complicated, and allow small businesses to expand into new markets without worrying about coming across a trademark issue. For a detailed explanation of trademark benefits, check out our full blog on the subject here.
Do you have any questions about trademark registrations, the process or whether it is the right time for your company to file a trademark application? Reach out to use for a free trademark consultation today and we will contact you soon and answer your questions.