As you build your company and gain more visibility for your expertise, products, and services, you are also building that beautiful thing we call a brand. Your brand is a living, breathing representation of what you do and who you are. It distinguishes your business, products, and services from everyone else’s, and it includes 3 main components:
- Visuals – logos, colors, typography
- Content – taglines, names (company, products and services) value propositions
- Experience – sounds, smells, the ways in which clients interact with your brand
The best way to protect your brand is through trademarks (marks). A mark increases your brand’s value by representing the quality and characteristics of your products and services, and it also protects you from others who attempt to copy or mirror your brand.
Why clear it first? Just to make sure no one else is using it. Then you need to actively work to protect your marks for two reasons:
- It’ll increase your brand’s value, and
- it’ll help prevent infringement on your rights by competitors.
So, how do you protect your trademark? Here are 5 important things you should do:
Register That Trademark!
Register your trademark at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Doing so will alert others that you’ure using (or plan to use) your mark. It also grants you mark rights and provides legal protections should you need to enforce your rights.
Note that in some countries, like the US, no registration means no rights. You also need to periodically check in and show that you’re still using the mark.
Show Off Your Trademark
Once your mark is registered, use the ® symbol next to it to show that it’s officially yours. Feel free to make your mark stand out in print and digitally by using a different color or font, quotation marks, all caps, etc. That way, it can’t be missed.
Be Careful Not to Dilute Your Mark – Or You Could Lose It
Did you know that saying, “Google the restaurant to see if it’s any good” is an improper use of the trademarked name Google®? If you use your marks as nouns or verbs, they could become a generic term and lose their legal protection. (When you talk about using Google®, you should say, “Use the Google® search engine to see if that restaurant is any good.”)
Watch Out For Thieves – They’re Looking Everywhere
Even though you registered your mark, copycats are everywhere. Failing to protect your mark when someone else uses it could make your mark unenforceable in the future. Consider using a professional with experience in searching for federal registration or uses of similar marks.
Practice Social Awareness
Familiarize yourself with privacy, use, and enforcement policies of search engines and social media sites. Make sure these sites use your marks correctly, and find out how each service handles unauthorized content. You might also consider acquiraing an registering domain names that are close to, or typos of, your official domain to limit “cybersquatting” involving your mark.
Putting a smart trademark strategy in place can help your brand stand out and gain monetary value in the long run. Any questions about protecting a mark? Leave it in the comments below, and we’ll get you an answer asap.