Should I trademark my company name? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a unique piece of intellectual property used for the purpose of defending your brand and goodwill. We’ve written a few blogs on this topic before. Trademarks can be a word, series of words, or a graphical design. Think logos and slogans.
Secretary of State Protections
Many people think that they have all the protections they need by filing their articles with the Secretary of State’s office. Unfortunately, filing for an LLC or corporation provides very little protections for your brand and goodwill. The Secretary of State will prevent anyone from using the same or virtually the same name. For example, if your company’s name is “Better Bread,” the Secretary of State’s office will prevent anyone from using the company name “The Better Bread.” However, they will not stop someone from using the name “Better Bread 2.”
There are two types of trademarks. Common law trademarks exist without registering them. They have weaker protections. Additionally, they cover only the geographic region they’re used. Registered trademarks cover the geographic region under the authority of the trademark office. Typically, people register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Trademarks registered with the USPTO have national protections. On top of stronger protections, registered trademarks come with statutory damages and a presumption of first in use. For example, if someone starts using the company name “Better Breads 2” in Utah, you can file a lawsuit to stop them even if you’re only located in North Carolina.
Likelihood of Confusion
Trademarks only protect against certain infringements. Likelihood of confusion is one infringement. Put simply, if one person could think that two companies are one in the same, there’s likelihood of confusion.
The other type of infringement is essentially mark dilution. If someone’s use of your mark lessens the effect your mark has, it is infringement. For example, if someone uses your trademark on an advertisement for ritualistic sacrifice, you probably have a case for misappropriation of goodwill. However, if someone uses your mark and that usage wouldn’t harm you, you’d likely lose your case. For example, if someone used your mark “Better Breads” on an advertisement for electronic bread boards, you probably do not have a case.
Cost of Defending Trademark
Registered trademarks are cheaper and easier to defend than common law trademarks. However, you still have to be willing to spend the time and money to make that defense. If you don’t defend your trademark, you can actually lose it. Fortunately, registered trademark defense can come with attorney fees.
Should I Register my Company Name?
If your mark is valuable enough, yes. Conversely, if you’re not willing to put the money into defending it, you shouldn’t put the money into registering it. These can be very valuable assets to your company. However, you have to understand the cost to maintain them. If you’re uncertain, definitely sit down with your business coach, attorney, or a mentor you have. Finally, there is a timing issue with this. The first to file usually wins these types of disputes. Second place has to pay significantly more to challenge the trademark.
If you’d like help filing for a registered trademark, or would like to discuss more about your intellectual property plan, please feel free to contact us by completing the form below. Additionally, we can be reached at email@example.com or by calling (919) 912-9640.