So you’re building a great brand and want to protect it? You’re in luck. There are many ways that you can protect your business’s trademark.
The first step is to create a strong trademark. Notice that I use the word “create” rather than “choose.” The most distinctive trademarks are those that exhibit a high degree of originality and creativity. Words and symbols that are completely made up, with no inherent meaning are always at the top of the list (these are called fanciful marks i.e. Twitter). Common English words and combinations thereof are easier targets for infringers, thus creating a strong mark in the early stages of your business will help to prevent infringement before it occurs.
Registering your trademark is a no brainer. You can register your trademark at the State and Federal level, which will create a public record of your claimed mark. The USPTO TESS database is publicly searchable and many states also have searchable trademark databases. The deterrence effect that this has on potential infringers is worth the investment alone, however there are several other benefits to trademark registration.
Having an Attorney send a cease and desist letter is usually the best first step if infringement has actually occurred. Often times I’ll send out a polite yet firm letter and we’re able to work out a resolution without incurring significant legal fees. Other times when the infringement is intentional more draconian options must be pursued.
The owner of a Federal Trademark Registration may bring a civil action in federal court for trademark infringement. This tends to be a more expensive and time consuming option, however injunctive relief, damages and attorney’s fees may be sought in court.
If the infringer also holds a trademark registration or a pending trademark application, then opposition proceedings or cancelation proceedings may be initiated against the competing mark at the Federal level with the USPTO. This remedy seeks to invalidate the competing mark by submitting evidence that shows how the competing mark has prejudiced your trademark rights.
If a trademark infringer is infringing, but not to a substantial degree, then in some scenarios a trademark coexistence agreement and/or licensing agreement may be an option to consider.
Contact us for more information about how to enforce your trademarks.