Imagine starting your dream business. It’s rough at first, but eventually, things begin to fall into place. Revenue inches up as your business continues to grow and expand. You still have a long way to go, but you can finally see a glimpse of a future of success.
Then one day, a letter arrives from the mail. It’s from another company asking you to stop using their trademark. You feel sick. Changing your business name will be expensive. You could also lose some of the influence you’ve garnered for months. But you must comply, or else you’ll risk a cash-draining lawsuit.
Trademark infringement is a serious offense. However, you can easily avoid it. That said, here are eight facts things to know that will help you avoid problems in the future.
Things To Know About Trademark Infringement
1. Getting Legal Help Is The Best Thing To Do
Whether you’re accused of infringing on a trademark or the other way around, consulting an expert is the most logical course of action. Make sure you look for a reputable trademark attorney who can provide you with the best options. A knowledgeable trademark lawyer can help reinforce your rights to a trademark, dish out legal counsel, and connect you with the appropriate individuals in the event of a lawsuit. And if you think that hiring one seems like a waste of cash, think about the money that’ll slip out of your hands if you lose the case.
2. Prevention Is Better Than Cure
You don’t evacuate the moment a storm hits. You don’t build an emergency exit once a fire starts. You don’t install an antivirus only when you’re computer is already bloating with malware. You do all these things beforehand. Waiting for a calamity to strike can be disastrous. It’s best to take precautionary measures to avoid trademark infringement. How do you do this? By doing ample research. Make sure you search the Internet or ask around for similar names in the same market before registering your business. It’s only a small task to tackle in exchange for the security you get in return.
3. Your Trademark, Your Responsibility
Once you’ve come up with a unique name, you can register your trademark with the USPTO. Note that this department doesn’t monitor or enforce the trademarks. It’s your job to do so. Be a responsible business owner and keep an eye on startups that might be using your identifying elements. Note that you can lose your rights to a trademark if you neglect to maintain it.
4. A Trademark Should Be Unique
You can’t just name your pet food business ‘Best Dog Foods.’ Aside from being bland, it’s so generic that it can confuse the market, so you won’t be allowed to use it. Solid trademark protection applies to unique brands like ‘Boeing’ or distinguishable logos like Apple’s. You can also use something simple related to your business’s name like Toyota’s fancy ‘T.’ The bottom line is to be creative and develop something you can call your own.
5. Sometimes, A Letter Can Do
The term trademark infringement litigation has an ominous ring to it. However, things do not always have to escalate to court. If you’ve caught wind of a competitor using your trademark, the first thing to do is to send them a cease-and-desist letter. Be polite and professional. State how you already own the rights to the name they’re using or that their logo somewhat resembles yours. A lawyer can quickly draft and send this type of letter, which is often effective at enacting change.
6. Registering A Trademark And Business Are Not The Same
Once you registered your business, you’ll obtain basic trademark protection that only applies within the state you operate. This protection means that no other competitor can use the same name as yours. However, this rule doesn’t apply to other states. So if you want exclusive rights to your trademark throughout the country, you should register it to the USPTO.
7. Trademark Infringement Doesn’t Apply if You’re Not Using It
Believe it or not, there have been a handful of instances where businesses claim rights to a trademark they don’t use anymore. According to the law, ‘using’ a trademark means putting it on display to market your goods and services. Keep in mind that trademarks distinguish your business from the competition. How can the court protect you if you don’t utilize it anymore?
8. Trademarks Need To Be Renewed
Concerning the section above, businesses sometimes believe they still own the trademark rights when in fact, they have already expired. USPTO reminds you to keep your registration alive by filing necessary documents at specific intervals. Remember that the grace period for the deadline lasts only up to 6 months. If you haven’t processed your papers by then, the USPTO may invalidate your registration.
Trademark infringement is a matter of protecting one’s intellectual property. The time, money, and effort you spend to register a trademark is more than worth it than the damages a lawsuit can incur. Always do things the legal way!