by Deborah Sweeney
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A logo, then, can tell your customers more about your business than your name, or even the “About Us” section on your website, could ever tell them. Think about your favorite brands: Nike’s swoosh, Target’s bull’s-eye, and Wendy’s freckled cheeks. When we think about these businesses, the first images our brains conjure up are the logos that come with the brands. With so much riding on your company’s logo, it’s important to keep it protected- ensuring that no other company can claim it as their own.
But first things first, what exactly is a trademark? A trademark is used to protect your business’s logo, designs, symbols, phrases, or name so that competitors can’t use the same or extremely similar marks that you do. A trademark is your property. By registering a trademark, you have exclusive rights to use it, and no one else can infringe upon that right. With proper use and enforcement, trademarks will enforce the individuality of your business for an unlimited amount of time.
So why do you need one?
Don’t confuse your customers.
As mentioned above, a trademark makes your logo your legal property keeping other people from using it. Imagine creating a great logo for your business. You’ve been in business for about a year, and the community is really starting to get to know and love your business, largely thanks to the use of your logo. Then a new small business pops up in the same industry, who happened to create a very similar logo. If your logo is not protected, not only will your customers be confused, but if that company were to ever receive any bad press, it could easily be mistaken for yours. Avoid all of this from the beginning, and trademark your logo! Just remember that there’s some leeway when registering trademarks in different states. So Amy’s Bakery in California and Amy’s Bakery in Idaho can both be registered as “Amy’s Bakery” as long as the two have different fonts, color, or use different images. Though, one mark cannot tarnish another or bring about any sort of confusion.
Establishing your brand is important.
Look at the magnitude of the Nike brand. When you think Nike, you think of healthy, active, hard-working, driven people working to better themselves through activity. This concept of activity and hard work correlates strongly with the brand’s logo: the swoosh. Even the logo looks active; like it’s in motion.
When you decide on the logo for your small business, you are dictating the emotion and vibe that will be associated with your business throughout its entire life. The first step to creating a killer brand is a killer logo.
It’s not a difficult process.
The process can be a long one, but is not overly complex. You have to apply to the USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office) and wait about a month for the office to examine your mark and identify any problems with the registration. After the initial month and examination, what you’ve submit enters a 30 day waiting period where upon other people are allowed to challenge your right to register. After this waiting period, the trademark is yours. So besides the application process, it mostly amounts to a whole lot of waiting. Or, if you want to simplify the process even more, lots of small business owners choose to file their trademark through a filing service. These services will prepare the paperwork for you, verify that the mark is unique and not already registered, and carry out all necessary transactions with the USPTO on your behalf.
Deborah Sweeney – Legal Expert, CEO, MyCorporation.com – Calabasas, CA
As CEO of MyCorporation Business Services, Inc. (MyCorporation.com), Deborah Sweeney is an advocate for protecting personal and business assets for business owners and entrepreneurs. With her experience in the fields of corporate and intellectual property law, Deborah has evolved from lawyer to business owner. She has extensive experience in the start-up and entrepreneurial industry as she has been involved in the formation of hundreds of thousands of businesses for MyCorporation.com’s customers.
Ms. Sweeney received her JD & MBA degrees from Pepperdine University. She is active in the community and loves working with students and aspiring entrepreneurs. She serves on the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University and is a founding member of Partners of Pepperdine. Deborah has served as an adjunct professor at the University of West Los Angeles and San Fernando School of Law in the areas of corporate and intellectual property law. Ms. Sweeney is also well-recognized for her written work online as a contributing writer with top business and entrepreneurial blogging sites. She is a regular contributor on Forbes, American Express, Social Media Today, and BlogHer among many others.
In her ‘free’ time, Deborah enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, Benjamin (8) and Christopher (6). Deborah believes in the importance of family and credits the entrepreneurial business model for giving her the flexibility to enjoy both a career and motherhood. Follow her on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.