Trademarks are basically symbols that allow a company to be easily identified by customers. They can be a word, a tagline, a sound or a symbol. Trademarks essentially exist as an extension of a company’s branding. The main reason that you want to register a trademark is because it will prevent competition from copying your company’s public image.
All Businesses Need to Register With the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Many people assume that registering a business with a state gives them an automatic trademark on their image. An interesting thing about our United States government institutions is that each separate office operates independently. You will have to actually apply your trademark with the USPTO. This can be done easily online. One of the main reasons that the patent and trademark office has its own office is because they keep massive records of existing trademarks.
Your Trademark Idea Might Already Be Taken
Many business owners do not realize just how many trademarks are already taken. USPTO allows customers to do a trademark search on their own website. This is great for those that don’t know where to begin. You might want to do a little bit of independent research as well. This is because lawsuits related to trademarks that are slightly similar do happen. Some of these lawsuits may be frivolous, but that might not stop a judge from ruling in their favor.
Your Trademark Can Expire
The life of a trademark is not limitless. The life of a trademark registered with USPTO is ten years. The USPTO needs businesses to file a form stating that the trademark is still in use. This should be done after the five year mark. The Affidavit of Use form is fortunately relatively easy to fill out. Businesses should keep records of all the trademarks that they have filed. This will make it easier for them to renew these trademarks when the time comes. Accountants should also have records of the trademark transaction.
Trademarks Cannot Be Too Generic
You can sell a brand of computers called “Dell” or “Lenovo.” You can’t sell a computer and call it “computer.” This is obviously to stop competition from dominating a market. The strongest legal trademarks are both arbitrary and creative. This is because the entire purpose of the trademark symbol is to set a company apart from its competition. The USPTO may stop you from using a word or phrase that is too similar to the product that you are selling.
Trademark Class is Important
The USPTO has 45 different trademark classes. These include things like paint, beer, cleaning substances and clothing. You will want to talk with a lawyer if you are not sure which class your trademark fits into. You may also need to file multiple patents to cover all of the classes that your business needs. A business that produces both hand tools and machines will need to file patents for both classes. Lawyers that specialize in trademark law should be able to tell you how to classify your products.
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