Q: Do I need trademark protection?
—Concerned Business Owner
A: Dear Concerned:
As a business owner, it’s vital to not only protect your tangible assets—office space, equipment, and finances—but also your intangible assets—inventions, branding materials, and written documents.
These creative works are known as intellectual property (IP), and to protect IP from being stolen or counterfeited, you should acquire legal ownership of these assets.
The type of protection you need depends on the type of IP—patents protect inventions, copyrights protect original artistic or literary works, and trademarks protect brand names and logos. Since every business has a name, nearly every company needs a trademark.
Trademarks protect a word, slogan, symbol, design, or other distinguishing feature that differentiates your company in the marketplace. Merely receiving state authorization to use your company’s name does not provide trademark protection.
To register a trademark, you must apply through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once you own a trademark, you can stop others from using the same mark or one that’s confusingly similar using several methods: cease-and-desist letters, trademark infringement lawsuits, and payment of licensing fees.
Because IP laws involve serious legal ramifications, you should consult with a Creative Business Lawyer® when applying for a trademark and/or enforcing it.