If you are an entrepreneur, you should hopefully already have a good idea of how important intellectual property can be to any business. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the value of trademarks and need to brush up on your intellectual property, we’ve got you covered.
These are the top ten things that every entrepreneur should know about trademarks, which will help you protect yourself, your business, your brand and your intellectual property.
1) What is the Difference Between Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents?
This is a common question that we get a lot, and it is actually pretty simple to be able to tell the difference between what each of these are and what they can protect. Copyrights protect creative pieces that usually take the form of literature, music, art, etc. Patents are used to protect processes or inventions. A trademark protects brand names, logos, and slogans.
2) The Difference Between Trademarks and Trade Secrets
This is another great point that entrepreneurs need to distinguish between. Trademarks legally protect your branding. Trade secrets can add additional economic value to a business by giving them something unique that no one else is doing. For instance, if you own a barbeque restaurant or chain of restaurants, the name of your restaurant may be protected by a trademark. Your signature sauce may be an old family recipe, which is a trade secret.
3) Why You Need to Register Your Trademark
Just because you have the name of your brand or your business on your website or on a building does not mean that it is fully protected by trademark law. You need to register your trademark/name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to get maximum protection. This will make sure that you can pursue any infringers of your trademark, and take them to federal court to sue them for unauthorized use of your trademark. It also gives you the right to recover attorneys fees and any damages incurred by infringers.
4) Does Incorporating Provide You With a Trademark?
This is a fairly common misconception that many online entrepreneurs have. Just because you file paperwork for your business and open up a bank account doesn’t mean that you own the name or have the trademark for your name.
5) Does the Trademark Have to Be in Use to be Trademarked?
The short answer is yes, you must be using the name that you are intending to trademark to get the certificate of registration. The long answer is that you can actually file the paperwork with the USPTO before the name is in use, as long as you have the intent to use the trademark for commerce. But if you file under the intent to use prong, you won’t actually get protection until you start using the trademark.
6) How Long Does a Trademark Last?
A trademark lasts for ten years, with the option to extend it for successive ten-year chunks of time, as long as the trademark remains in use for commerce.
7) How Can I Start Protecting My Trademark Now?
The first step that you can take is registering your trademark with the USPTO. The next steps involve making sure that you protect your trademark and pursue infringers. If you choose not to protect your trademark when you are aware of infringers, you could be at risk of losing all of the rights of your trademark.
8) Does Registration Guarantee International Protection?
You are going to need to register your name with the trademark office in every country that your trademark is being used. Just because you register with the USPTO does not mean that you are going to be protected in China or India.
9) Protect Your Digital Property
So, if you have the trademark for your brand or business name, do you need to protect your website address under trademark law as well? That all depends on whether the trademark of that domain name is already taken or not. Make sure to search online to see if someone has already registered for the trademark for the domain name that you want or are using for your brand. Make sure that you check if that domain is already trademarked or in use. If it is, you could be at risk of infringement.
10) Work With an Attorney
Not to say that you can’t go through the filing process by yourself, but going through this process with an attorney will help you make sure that you do everything right from the very beginning. Using an attorney that specializes in intellectual property can even expedite the process of filing and obtaining the rights to your trademark.