What You Need to Know About Trademarks for Businesses
Running a successful business in Texas isn’t easy, but no matter what your business is, it is important to establish your identity and get your clients or customers to recognize your brand. To do this, a business needs to register its name, and preferably register a trademark.
Many small businesses complete the process of registering its name, but don’t necessarily get around to the trademark. Registering a business name protects your right to do business under that name, and in most cases such a registration is required. Registering a trademark is not something that small businesses automatically think of doing.
Completing a federal registration of a trademark costs money, and many small businesses don’t see the necessity of taking on the expense, since simply using a business’s logo or other identifying art or signage makes an unofficial, or common-law, declaration of ownership.
Learn why your business should look into investing in a trademark and how it can help your business and brand.
What Trademarks Protect
According to the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO) a trademark is, “a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” It protects the intellectual property of businesses and individuals.
Other intellectual property protections include copyright, which protects creative and artistic works and patents, which protects inventions.
In many cases, a small business may not initially feel any urgency to protect their brand with a trademark because the brand has not yet become recognizable, and when it comes to trademarks, recognition and value go hand-in-hand.
Small Business and the Federal Trademark Registration
As your small business becomes more popular in your community and possibly beyond, you might finally decide that it is time to go beyond registering your business’s name and apply for a trademark registration. You can only get federal registration if you are operating across state lines.
When you do so, it is important to go about it the right way or you could be risking money or even the stability of your business. Many businesses start to feel more confident about their brand and are surprised when they attempt to register their trademark only to be rejected because the USPTO sees too many similarities between their brand image and that of another business.
By then, the business has lost out on the filing fee and is faced with the decision as to whether it is worth the expense to challenge the examiner decision, or worse, if rebranding might be necessary. In some cases, they might even find themselves facing trademark infringement charges, even when they never intended to copy any other business.
One way to avoid this potential obstacle is to conduct a free trademark search with the USPTO in order to identify what might be seen as a conflict. While business owners can do this on their own, a business attorney’s services can be helpful in providing an experienced set of eyes that can spot a potential rejection.
If you are successful in registering a trademark with the USPTO, it will protect your ability to use your brand and any associated symbolism across the country without being copied by others who may try to turn a profit based on your intellectual property.
Trademark in Texas
In Texas, you can also register a trademark on the state level with the Texas Secretary of State. A state level registration will make your brand protectable within the state of Texas.
For those businesses that plan to conduct most of their business in state rather than nationwide this may be sufficient. If your trademark is registered, anyone that uses without your consent will have committed a civil violation.
In order to register a trademark in Texas, there are some rules that must be followed. The Secretary of State requires that the trademark be in use before the date of the application, and that the mark itself be distinctive. Marks that bear too much similarity to an existing Texas trademark or USPTO trademark may see their applications rejected.
Timing can be crucial, an experienced attorney is often the key to getting things right.