How Strong is Your Trademark? by @KelleyKeller

by Kelley Keller | Featured Contributor

A trademark is a valuable business asset that you need to protect, but did you know that you can only legally protect a trademark if it’s distinctive?

For example, if your business or product name isn’t distinctive and protected by a trademark that has been correctly filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), you could lose your legal rights to use it in the future.

Imagine all the time, money, and sweat equity you could lose if five years from now you get a cease and desist letter telling you that you can no longer use your business, brand, or product name or logo because someone else owns the trademark.

Imagine what would happen to your business if another company started doing business in your area with the same or a similar name or logo? If your mark isn’t distinctive, then you could have little or no protection in a court of law even if you filed a trademark application that was approved.

The dangers to your business, reputation, and bottom-line are very real and can be extremely expensive. Therefore, it’s critical that you select a distinctive mark, file a trademark application properly, and maintain your trademark on an ongoing basis.

Don’t leave the fate of your business up to chance and move forward hoping that problems will never come up. They will.

To help you better understand what trademarks are, what it means for a trademark to be distinctive, and how to determine whether or not your mark is distinctive enough to get broad legal protection, take a look at the Spectrum of Trademark Distinctiveness infographic below.

Most importantly, pick your mark and protect it properly the first time. You’ll save time, money, stress, and a lot of heartache if you take the necessary steps to protect your business and its intellectual property assets today.

Trademark Spectrum of Distinctiveness Infographic


Source: Kelley Keller, Esq. via


Keller Head ShotKelley Keller is an intellectual property (IP) attorney, author, and legal commentator on IP matters with 18 years of “real world” experience in the field. She has written numerous articles on the subject, including publications in legal journals on the impact intellectual property has on everyday business.  Other contributions to business magazines and various blogs look at the relationship between intellectual property protection and social media use at home and work, copyright in the new digital economy, and the business side of branding.

In addition to practicing law, Kelley speaks about it. She presents at conferences, business events, and in various educational venues, on topics such as intellectual property and its role in business growth and sustainability, molding company culture, and driving employee satisfaction. She is frequently called upon to share her expertise in print, online, and on the air. Her content unpacks and decodes the complexities and importance of intellectual property to everyday business.

Kelley will tell you that it is part of American culture to understand the maxim, or at the least the principle behind it, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” If you invent something that improves people’s lives (think the personal computer) or simply makes them happier (the remote control) you just might become very rich. If you start a blog, turn it into a book, and then write a screenplay that becomes a blockbuster hit (think Julie and Julia), you just might become very rich. If you build a company with a powerful brand recognized by millions of people (think FACEBOOK®), you just might become very rich. Innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of the American economy. Understanding your rights and responsibilities in the IP world is crucial to getting in on the action.

Named one of Central Pennsylvania’s Top 25 Women of Influence for 2013 and placed on the acclaimed top Forty Under 40 list published by the Central Penn Business Journal in 2012, you can find Kelley on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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