by Tina Gehres
Branding is essential for every business in every industry. Often overlooked yet equally important, however, is protecting the brand that you pour time, energy, and resources into creating. While many aspects of a brand are intangible or conceptual, there are tangible assets to safeguard. Don’t let your identity and competitive edge be infringed upon; take these proactive measures to protect your brand.
1. Register Trademarks
It is true that you own trademark rights to your company’s name, slogans, symbols, and logos under common law. However, these rights are nowhere near the exclusive rights granted in a federally registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There are many reasons to register your trademarks, the most notable being to deter and, if necessary, bring a successful lawsuit against infringers. A registered trademark grants the owner an automatic right to sue, along with the right to seek triple damages and attorney fees, as well as statutory damages for counterfeiting. See the requirements for registering a trademark here.
2. Secure and Utilize the ® Symbol
The registered trademark symbol (®) provides constructive notice that a mark is claimed exclusively. Once your trademarks have been officially registered and approved, placing this symbol next to them is a simple way to ensure an infringer is not able to claim innocent infringement and avoid monetary damages. The ® symbol provides a much greater degree of protection than the trademark symbol (™), which signifies common law rights or a pending federal trademark application. Failure to apply the ® symbol can result in a loss of exclusive rights, so it’s important to integrate it with your registered marks across all channels and assets.
3. Monitor Usage
Registering your trademark is only the beginning. On Marketwired, trademark attorney Karen Hawkes of Gehres Law Group, P.C. discusses several methods for protecting trademarks. Many trademark owners rely on their own searches on Google to check if anyone is infringing on their marks. This is certainly an effective practice, but additional measures should be considered and implemented. A companywide trademark enforcement policy should include a trademark-watching service or clearance search report, with general employee education, awareness, and policing to supplement. In the digital age, trademark monitoring is extremely important, as infringement is more widespread than ever.
4. Maintain and Add Trademarks
As your brand grows and evolves, your trademark portfolio should, too. For example, if you add a new capability, you might consider branding and trademarking the service. Many businesses rebrand or refresh their marketing materials every few years; this, too, should trigger trademark discussions within the company. If you update your logo, you want to retain exclusive rights to the previous mark(s) while also gaining exclusive rights to the new mark(s). Many owners mistake a trademark for a “set it and forget it” asset. Unfortunately, it’s not always this simple. Just like your business itself, your trademarks are dynamic. They require constant attention to avoid lapses in protection and loopholes for infringers.
5. Copyright Content
Copyright registration is a necessity in creative fields such as music, filmmaking, photography, and publishing – but those are not their only uses. As businesses continue to produce their own content such as videos, blog articles, white papers, podcasts, and infographics, copyright protection is becoming increasingly essential in the world of everyday business. Even architectural works, engineering designs, and software can benefit from registered copyrights. Similar to trademarks, automatic copyright protection is assumed under common law, but not to the same degree as a federally registered copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Learn more about federal copyright registration here.
6. Hire an Experienced Trademark Lawyer
Protecting your brand is not a simple task. Even with all bases covered, infringement can still arise, requiring legal counsel and, if the infringer is not cooperative, litigation. Because of the complexity and sheer time commitment involved in registering, monitoring, and defending intellectual property, it is best to hire a business lawyer who specializes in these practice areas.
The San Diego business attorneys at Gehres Law Group, P.C. have provided trademark and copyright registration and litigation to countless businesses across many different industries. Gehres Law Group advises and protects companies of all sizes, tailoring their services to each of their client’s specific needs. Contact them at (858) 964-2314 to schedule your free consultation.
Tina Gehres is the President and founder of Gehres Law Group, P.C., a law firm that aims to provide affordable legal services to small businesses and individuals in the state of California. Ms. Gehres has held a broad range of roles including Corporate Counsel, Director of Human Resources, Law Firm Partner, Legal Consultant, and Senior Accountant. Today, she has positioned herself as a valuable asset to clients as a small business attorney. Find Gehres Law Group at https://gehreslaw.com/.