I have often seen business owners make the mistake of assuming that by registering their company they are registering their trademark. See the example below – all names have been changed for privacy (of course).
My client, Susan, is a fashion designer. She registered her company, Clarity, Inc., with the New York Dept. of State, and started using Clarity as her brand. Susan invested $10,000 in creating and developing her brand.
Two years later, Cynthia, also a fashion designer, started using and registered Clarity as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (commonly known as USPTO). This created a problem because customers were getting confused between Susan’s and Cynthia’s “Clarity” products.
Susan asked me how Cynthia could use and register her brand when Susan had already registered Clarity, Inc. I often hear this question from my clients.
The simple answer is – register your trademark. While Susan had registered her company, Clarity, Inc., as a business, she failed to register the brand, Clarity, as a trademark. Susan could stop Cynthia from using her brand by filing a lawsuit in court or with the trademark authority. But she realized that she would spend more time and money being involved in a legal dispute. So she decided to rebrand. And the rebranding cost her nearly $10,000.
Had Susan obtained trademark registration for Clarity two years ago when she registered her business, she could have avoided this situation.
The problem is that most of you confuse registering your company with getting a trademark.
When you are setting up an LLC or S corp or some other structure, you are registering your company/business as a legal entity. As I just demonstrated through the example above, registering a company is not the same as registering your trademark.
A trademark is a logo, phrase, word, symbol, slogan, sound or fragrance that is used exclusively by your company to distinguish your goods and/or services from a competitor or others in the industry. For example, the partially eaten apple logo adopted and used by Apple is globally recognized and identified exclusively with the company. The Apple logo is a federally registered trademark in the United States and many other countries.
Do you have a trademark for your brand? If not – please reach out to us. I don’t want you spending thousands of dollars on having to re-brand your precious fliers, marketing copy, website, packaging, letters, business cards…all because you didn’t spend the time and energy to get a trademark today.
Call us at 646-820-1366 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to have a complimentary conversation with you on your business and trademarks.
Don’t let someone steal your brand name that you have worked so hard to build. Take care of your business and immediately register your brand name, logo, slogan or tagline as a trademark.
Working with an attorney to determine your trademark rights can help you organize your brand and your business. Nupur Shah Law can help you if you have questions about registering your trademark.
Photo: flickr, TaxRebate.org.uk