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How to Use a Trademark to Protect Your Brand

If you have developed a brand of any kind, you'll want to protect it in order to maximize earnings and grow the brand. The most common form of protection is filing a trademark application. A trademark is any unique symbol, word, image or device that distinguishes the goods you have created from those of another seller. Certain trademarks are iconic: the font for the Coca-Cola logo, or the alligator logo on a Lacoste shirt. Consumers have come to associate the white cursive script from the Coca-Cola logo with beverages with a certain color, taste, and price. Similarly, consumers have come to associate a small embroidered crocodile sewn onto the left side of a polo shirt with polo shirts of a certain quality and price.

Trademarks are important because they allow the seller to build brand loyalty through repeat customers. Customers rely on the information conveyed in the trademarked symbol, word, image, or device for representations about quality and performance. Trademarks are also important because they protect what is trademarked from competitors' use or misuse. The trademark is also designed to prevent consumer confusion or manipulation because consumers often come to associate distinct qualities with a particular brand.

Many aspects of a brand may be trademarked, including logos, packaging, names, and slogans or tag lines. However, the name must be unique or "distinctive." It cannot be commonly used to describe the products or services sold, or already connected with another product or service in the same industry. One oft-cited example is that the phrase "search engine" cannot be trademarked because it is a commonly used, or "generic," name for a website that permits you to search the web, but the name "Google" can be trademarked because it is unique.

You might consider seeking trademark protection for a business name if you advertise it directly to consumers. If you are connecting the business name to your brand and the attributes of the brand, you will want to trademark the business name. Your logo could also be trademarked, but consider if the logo is unique. A unique logo is a combination of a symbol with the company's name combined with unique colors and designs. An attorney can help you determine which aspects of your brand should be trademarked and can guide you through the trademark process.

Whoever establishes a priority mark is considered the owner of that mark. Adding the phrase "TM" to the mark means you are claiming rights to that name. Usually this is all that needs to be done. However, registering the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can provide reassurance, because you will establish ownership beyond a doubt. Trademarks may be registered at the state or federal level. State registrations are less expensive but also offer less protection. You could also register your trademark internationally, although enforcement can be challenging and expensive.

For more information on protecting your brand with trademarks, contact the experienced Orange County trademark lawyers at MYBE Law today.

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