It is astounding how many people do not protect their company name by registering it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I have heard a couple of client nightmare stories where they have, after years of developing a brand (spending thousands of dollars), been told that they can no longer use their company name for one reason or another.
First off, let me say that I am not an attorney, and this is not to be construed as legal advice. If you need an intellectual property attorney – get one, or feel free to contact me for a referral for an intellectual property attorney.
If you have a company name that is close to a competitor’s name, that competitor may claim that your name causes confusion with their company name (especially if they registered it first). Whether they are correct or not, it is up to attorneys and a court of law to decide if the alleged conflict causes confusion in the eyes of a reasonable, average customer. At the end of the day, you can’t stop people from suing you. However, if you register your company name with the USPTO, you stand a better shot at not having to shell out a lot of money (for damages, future licensing, a settlement, naming rights etc.), and perhaps avoid changing your company name to avoid litigation.
Just a note on cost of trademarking: if you file it yourself online, the 2014 trademark fees are only $325. An attorney will probably charge you around $500, but you won’t have to think much. =)
Let’s talk a bit more about that little “®” symbol. Anyone can use a TM (trademark) or SM (servicemark – for services versus physical products) next to their logo, name, or product that they developed. This symbol is largely unregulated. This is because A TM is to signify that that individual or company is trademarking, or plans to trademark that phrase, word, or logo. However, in order to get an actual U.S. federal trademark – AND the legal permission to use the “®” symbol, you MUST register with the US Patent and Trademark Office, and have the registration awarded to you. The USPTO acts as a clearinghouse during the registration process and also handles incoming disputes if anyone has any beef with your requested registration (i.e. they feel that it infringes on their existing intellectual property).
If you do some research and some light reading, and it is possible to go online to USPTO to register your own company name. Personally, I recommend getting the “word mark” for your name trademarked (versus your logo). This way, you can update your logo in the future if you would like to. By getting a registered trademark on your company name (text versus logo), you have greater flexibility.
If you have a cool company or product name that needs a logo, or a logo that needs refreshing, give us a call at 561-594-7336 or check out our logo portfolio at http://www.greengroupstudio.com/portfolio/by-service/logos.html.