Trademark owners are always concerned about someone stealing their trademark, intentionally or unintentionally. Here are some tips for the question I hear a lot – How do I protect my trademark?
- Choose a unique and distinctive mark. This will help avoid the well-meaning infringers who didn’t intend to step on your toes. They didn’t realize that their trademark just happens to be identical to yours. That problem is much less likely to happen if you’ve chosen something unique for your name (for example, a made-up word or a word that has nothing to do with your product or service). These highly distinctive marks have the added benefit of receiving extra protection under trademark law – the more unique it is, the better the protection.
- Put a TM next to your mark. A straightforward way to protect your trademark. This tells the world that you consider this to be a valid trademark, and you are willing to protect it as a trademark. It cuts down on the unintentional infringers and can be helpful if you have to go to court.
- Register your mark. Registration will give your trademark the most protection. You can register your trademark on the state level or the federal level, but registering on the federal level with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will give you nationwide protection, with the possibility of expanding your trademark into other countries. You can also use the ® symbol, which can only be used by trademarks registered with the USPTO. There are additional benefits beyond these, like automatically being able to file a lawsuit in a federal court, but the perks I just listed tend to be the ones that people care about most. A word of warning with federal registration – the USPTO is very particular about how you fill out the registration application. It’s very easy to make a mistake that will either delay your application’s approval or cause your application to be rejected. If you decide that federal registration is the best way to go, I would strongly recommend hiring an experienced professional to submit the application for you.
- Use your trademark consistently. Trademark protection is a “use it or lose it” proposition – if you stop using it entirely, it’s considered abandoned, and someone else can pick it up. If you want to hang on to your mark, keep it in your marketing, even if it only pops up occasionally. The best way to protect your mark regularly is to use it across all your marketing channels and be very consistent and predictable with where your trademark mark pops up. Infringers will sometimes try to use inconsistency as an excuse for why they thought it was okay to infringe – don’t give them the opportunity.
For more ideas on how you can protect your trademark, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.