Every business, either small or big, has a trademark. A trademark is different from a trade name or a business name. Many people, who are just about to start their entrepreneurial journeys, make the mistake of thinking that, both these entities are same. Well! They are not.
Trade name VS Trademark
A trade name is an official name of your business. Your company will conduct business under the trade/business name. Registering the business name with the state is very important. The business name that you propose should not be registered by anyone else and should not be in use. But, remember that every state has its own laws about business names.
Registering the trade name has its share of benefits which includes prohibiting other business names from using the same trade name and having an official record of your trade name. Business names should be registered with the state /local government.
Any word or a phrase or a design or even a symbol or a combination of these can be considered as a trademark of a particular company. A trademark identifies that a particular product or service is provided by a particular company. A trademark also distinguishes the company’s products/services from the competitor’s products and services. A trademark can include logos, names or slogans or a combination of these. A trademark of a registered business name should be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark office.
Examples of trademarks are Coco Chanel (Name); McDonald’s golden arch (Symbol); MSN’s butterfly (Picture); Java (combination of letters and designs); Just do it – Nike (Slogan).
The main aim of the trademarks is to allow consumers to relate and identify the producers of goods and services (the businesses) and also to avoid any avoid confusion. A trademark stands more as a brand name.
A trademark protects the different intellectual property of a company such as the brand name and the logo used on goods and services. There are trademark laws in place to protect the companies and their services and products.
In the United States of America, the trademarks laws are governed by the Lanham Act.
Under the Lanham Act 43(a), any registered or unregistered trademark has some degree of federal protection. But the trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, have a higher grade of protection in the federal courts, should any dispute arise.
The Lanham Act also lays down procedures for registering the trademarks and also states about the federal judicial protection against infringement for the trademark owners. Guidelines and remedies for trademark owners as well are established through this act.
Before registering for trademarks
Seeking help from an intellectual property attorney, before registering for the trademark of your business is a good idea. There are many legalities involved in the process and a good amount of documentation. And hence an intellectual property attorney’s advice will be very valuable. In scenarios such as similarities to existing trademarks, there are many chances that your registration of the trademark could be contested. Hence taking legal advice at the right time prevents such situations arising in the future. A trademark lawyer also will help you in getting some federal protection.
Trademark rights are territorial, which means that the trademark laws can apply to any infringement in the United States if the trademark is registered in the US.
Importance of trademarks to businesses
Trademarks distinguish your businesses from other businesses. A consumer’s purchasing decision is highly influenced by the brand name that comes along with a trademark. It is one of the most effective ways to capture the end consumer’s attention and a good commercial tactic used by any business. They are also great tools of leverage and an asset to a business.