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Intellectual Property Audit
Trademark law is all about brand protection.
What is a trademark?
A trademark (or mark for short) is a distinctive word, phrase, logo, or graphic symbol that is used to identify the source of a product or service and distinguish your products or services from someone else’s.
When you think about trademarks for your business, think about branding. What name do your customers or clients recognize (i.e. Nike, McDonald’s, Apple)? How important is your logo for building your brand identity (i.e. Nike’s swoosh symbol, McDonald’s golden arches, Apple’s...well, apple)? Do you use any slogans that, when customers hear them, they should immediately think of your company (i.e. Just Do It, What’s in Your Wallet, Because You’re Worth It)?
Trademark law protects your business name, logo, or slogan by preventing others from using a “confusingly similar” trademark on “related goods or services” anywhere in the country.
What is the difference between a trademark and a copyright?
Trademark law is all about protecting consumers by distinguishing your goods and services from those of your competitors. The Copyright law protects original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. In simple terms, trademarks protect brand identity; copyrights protect content.
How do I trademark my name/logo/slogan?
(Note: There is an additional step for what are known as “intent to use” trademark applications. These applications require additional filings and fees and take longer to approve.)
Registering a trademark with the USPTO is a complex legal proceeding. The entire process can easily take 8-12 months or longer if the examining attorney or third parties raise legal objections.
Should I trademark my business name if it’s already registered with the state?
If you have already registered your LLC or other business entity, then you may be wondering whether you should also register your business name as a trademark. Creating a business with the Secretary of State only protects that name within the state. So if your business is Acme, LLC, then the Ohio Secretary of State will not allow another business to register under the name Acme. (However, the Secretary of State’s standards is much lower than the standards that apply to trademark registrations. For example, the Secretary of State would allow someone to register Akme, LLC.)
By registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, your trademark is protected nationwide. (And while the Ohio Secretary of State would allow a competitor to register, Akme, the USPTO would not because Akme is confusingly similar to Acme.) If your business is not limited geographically, then it’s important to register your business trademarks with the USPTO. Read more about Unregistered Trademarks.
In addition to having the exclusive right to use the trademark nationwide, registration provides a number of other important benefits:
How long does trademark protection last?
Trademark protection only applies if you continue to use the trademark in commerce. If you stop using the trademark to sell your goods or services, then you can lose your trademark rights.
In addition, you must file certain trademark maintenance paperwork on a regular basis. These filings are first due between the 5th and 6th anniversary of your trademark registration, and then every 10th anniversary.
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