June 5, 2012
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Trademark Registration: Keep Your Brand Safe
Your trademarks are all the words, designs and symbols that distinguish your brand from anyone else’s. Keep them safe and make sure they clearly belong to you.
8. Perform a trademark search.
As a first step, always perform a clearance search on any trademark ideas you have to be absolutely sure that nobody else has already taken them for themselves. You can use clearance companies that offer this service for you, but might also want to consider doing your own investigation on the search engines, trademark databases and even web domain registrars. And note, the “United States, recognizes common law trademark rights, which means action can be taken for trademark that is in use but not registered. In the United States, registration is not required, but it increases the legal protections offered to the trademark holder.”
9. Register your trademarks.
Get your trademark formally registered with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While your registration is pending, make sure that any instance of trademark in your startups promotional and other materials is followed by the letters TM, for products, or SM, for services. After you gain legal status, you can tack on the ® that symbolizes a registered trademark.
10. Protect domain names and social media usernames.
Don’t forget about your company’s domain names and social media tags. Prevent cybersquatting and domain name disputes. These are crucial parts of thorough trademark protection and if you don’t fully register them as exclusively yours, someone else who steals them down the road could do some serious damage to your company’s online reputation. While social media networks have their policies, for example “Twitter has a policy against name squatting and selling usernames” it’s still important to actively claim your company’s name in social networks — even those you don’t currently use.
Alright, so we’ve covered the basics of patent, copyright and trademark protection. Pay close attention to all three as your grow your startup into the next Google and you should be a happier business owner. Just make sure you do plenty of research for protecting all of the IP you produce, these tips just barely scratch the surface.
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Photo Credit: J.Crew
Jeff Fields is a freelance writer who writes about IP, licensing, and patent issues for Red Chalk Group, an international IP management company based in Chicago.
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