This is the second of three tips that explore the types of intellectual property protection that are critical to establishing and protecting your brand in the small business environment.
Establishing a trademark is an essential step in creating a brand for your small business. Trademarks can be used to protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services. Examples include your product/service name, tagline, or logo. You can also trademark the shape of your product if it is unique.
It is important to choose your trademarks wisely and ensure that they are unique enough to leave no doubt in a consumer’s mind that your company is the source of a particular product or service. Trademarks that are generic or descriptive of a product or service will be rejected by the Trademark Office.
While you can establish rights in a mark based on legitimate use within a region, there are advantages to owning a federal trademark registration. First and foremost, it provides notice to the public and a legal presumption of ownership of the mark, as well as exclusive rights to use the mark nationwide.
Before you submit an application, you should hire trademark counsel to conduct an extensive search of the existing common law uses and registration for the mark you select, to draft a description of the mark, and to determine under what class or classes to file the trademark application.
Caroline Vanderlip, CEO SharedBook New York, N.Y.