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Common Trademark Mistakes Made By Small Businesses

Business owners certainly understand the importance of protecting their brands.  However, taking the steps necessary to ensure a brand has all of the necessary legal protections, including trademarks, is often not prioritized.  Let’s walk through some of the most common trademark mistakes business owners often make.

Not Conducting a Comprehensive Trademark Search

Many business owners understand the importance of a trademark search, but they opt to use a free online searches such as Google or the USPTO’s TESS search engine to conduct their trademark searches.  This is of course is seemingly less expense but it can actually end up being more costly. That’s because these searches typically only reveal exact matches to your trademark and most trademark disputes arise from “confusingly similar” marks, not exact matches.  Advanced software used by Anitria Stevenson Law will reveal not just exact marks, but similar marks as well and will make filing your application a lot less risky.

The USPTO will reject your trademark application if a confusingly similar mark is already registered.  Conducting a proper clearance search before you submit your application with the USPTO helps eliminate wasting your time and your money.  Having this information in advance, allows you to make the necessary changes to your mark before you submit your application.

Engage with an experienced attorney to assist with your trademark search.

Failing to Secure A Federal Trademark With The USPTO

In the United States, you do have common law rights to your trademark simply by using it first in the marketplace.  However, common law rights are very limited. A common law trademark will only protect your mark in the geographic region where your business is located.  This means your business growth could significantly restricted if you ever wish to expand or if you plan to sell your goods and/or services online.

Also, you should register all of your trademarks with the USPTO.  Typically, business owners focus on registering their business name, and that’s a great place to start. But your business probably has a portfolio of marks that need the trademark protection as well such as the names of your products and/or services, logos, tag lines, slogans, or even packaging. Talk with your trademark attorney to get a complete legal protection strategy for protecting all of your business trademarks.

Contact us today for a free consultation with a trademark attorney.

Failing to Police Your Trademark

The USPTO approves and registers trademarks but it doesn’t enforce your trademark.  As a trademark owner, you are responsible for policing your trademark.  Your trademark only remains strong if you police it. Allowing others to use your mark without your permission dilutes your mark’s strength, confuses potential customers, and can even damage your brand’s reputation.  You must monitor your trademark’s use and take immediate legal action against infringement. Trademark monitoring is a valuable tool to aid in policing your trademark. What is trademark monitoring? Trademark monitoring helps notify you of any possible infringement and helps determine the best course of action to stop the infringement.  In many cases, a cease-and-desist letter is all that is needed to stop unauthorized use of the mark, but occasionally, more formal legal action must be taken so that your mark remains in your control.  Trademark monitoring may seem like an impossible task especially while you are trying to run a successful business.  Fortunately, some trademark attorneys offer trademark monitoring services. Working with an experienced attorney like Anitria Stevenson ensures that appropriate action will be taken quickly.

Failing to Maintain Your Trademark

A federally-registered trademark remains active, as long as you continue to use it properly and meet renewal deadlines.  It’s important to consistently use your trademark only in the way that it was registered.  If multiple people in your company will be using the trademark, consider creating trademark guidelines, outlining how your trademarks should be used on products, websites, and marketing material, to ensure consistent use.

You must also meet the renewal deadlines set by the USPTO.  For new trademarks, the first renewal will occur between the fifth and sixth year, and again between the ninth and tenth year.  After that, renewals will take place every ten years.  Failing to meet renewal deadlines will cause your trademark to be canceled.

Not Working with a Trademark Attorney

Entrepreneurs, by nature, are go-getters and often have a do-it-yourself approach to business.  Being able to trim costs and overhead is often a necessity. While this is certainly beneficial in developing your product or service, hiring employees and growing your bottomline, taking the DIY approach to trademark registration could cost you way more time and money in the long run.  The trademark registration process is stacked with legal decisions that need to be made from conducting a trademark search to selecting the correct classes of goods and/or services.  In order to get the broadest protection possible for your mark, it’s wise to consider working with a trademark attorney.

This is why the USPTO recommends working with an experienced trademark attorney!  A recent study conducted by the University of North Carolina found that applications filed by trademark attorneys actually have a significantly higher likelihood of approval than those that did not.  The odds of approval jumps significantly when using a qualified trademark attorney. While 57% of people filing without the help of an attorney received approval from the USPTO, the number jumped to 83% when submitted with the help of an attorney.  Anitria Stevenson Law works with many business owners tried completing the application process on their own, only to be rejected and forced to refile.  Avoid this costly and time-consuming mistake by working with an experienced trademark attorney from the beginning.

Avoid Trademark Mistakes

Whether you are still in product development or well established in business, now is the time to begin the trademark registration process.  In order to get the broadest protection for your mark, avoid the most common trademark mistakes.  Work with an attorney and conduct a clearance trademark search.  Register all of your trademarks with the USPTO, and monitor their use in the marketplace.  If you find potential infringement, work with your attorney to take immediate action.  Be sure to use the mark consistently, and meet renewal deadlines as well.  These tips will ensure your business, brand and trademarks are all protected.

Do you need assistance with a trademark matter?

Contact an Attorney Today

Anitria Stevenson, Esq
Anitria Stevenson, Esq. is the founder and managing attorney of Anitria Stevenson Law. Anitria Stevenson has more than 23 years of experience in trademark law and has helped countless business owners navigate the trademark process successfully. The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as legal advice.

How Do I Protect My Brand?

New businesses are created every day, especially with the increase in internet accessibility.  You can now develop a new idea and become a business owner with the click of a few buttons, you’re live on the internet. Unfortunately, this too often results in infringement of other established brands. Brand protection is necessary to stop infringement. Brand infringement cause businesses to lose billions annually.

If you are currently a business owner, It is very likely that your business has intellectual property that attracts customers and creates revenue. Whether it be a recognized trademark, copyright or patent, every single business has some sort of intellectual property.  Whether you know it or not, your intellectual property is the reason your business earns revenue. 

Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs simply do not know their rights regarding their intellectual property, and if they know, they’re not sure how to go about protecting it. I work with small businesses every day, and it’s alarming to hear about how much revenue is being lost due to infringement on their brand. 

Brand protection helps thriving businesses protect their reputation and maintain the integrity of their products and services. There are several ways to implement brand protection for your business. I’m going to detail some of the most common means for small businesses to implement a plan. 

In House Reviews

Due to fear of driving up overhead costs, many entrepreneurs have relied on the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) plan of action. There is nothing wrong with this, if you know what you are doing. In-house review and monitoring is the most cost-efficient mode of brand protection, but it has the most holes. Many instances of infringement can be missed simply because the business owner was unaware of it or did not know what to do about it.

Automated Software

There are a number of software companies creating new programs to track down and eliminate infringing products around the world. However, your copyrighted works are often missed by the software. It is also common for infringers to just make subtle changes to original works but even derivative works often still constitute copyright infringement, and the software may not catch the derivative works even though they are copyright infringement. The software is also not the most cost efficient option.

Entreprelegal Copyright System

Entreprelegal is a more cost-efficient than automated software and closes the gaps between in-house reviews and automated software. It is a proactive approach, so clients never have to worry about infringers. Once an infringement is identified, Entreprelegal immediately has the content removed. There are different levels of enrollment, so the program works for all business sizes. You can learn about the specifics of my subscription models here

No matter level of brand protection you choose for your business, you have to be proactive. Protect your intellectual property or lose it.

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Clients often ask the question, "Can I copyright this?" Most times our new clients have no idea that they could have added copyright protection for their work.  Unfortunately, it's usually after seeing their work displayed without their permission and most...

Why All Business Owners Should Have An Official Trademark Search

An official name search is imperative if you do not have a federal trademark registration. Imagine this…you just started a business and found the perfect name. However, money is tight and you think a trademark can be saved for later down the road. You run a google search and a TESS search and think you have the green light. Your name is not in use. Several months or years later, your business has grown and your business name is now recognizable. You have marketing material and you have invested in an advertising budget. You call your attorney and decide to proceed with a trademark application. However, you learn that google and the TESS database are not adequate searches. The trademark office does not only look for names that are the same.  The trademark office will also test whether your mark is likely to cause confusion with already registered marks. So, even though you ran your own search and didn’t find any business with the same name as yours, there could still be a number of businesses with names that are similar enough that they are likely to cause confusion. 

Performing an official search now can save you thousands of dollars down the road.  An official search will let you know what level of risk you will face during the application process. You could be denied a trademark registration because you didn’t verify with an official search. You may be able to overcome the denial and the trademark denial may not mean you have to change your name. However, if the owner of the registered mark becomes aware of your mark and application, they may decide to pursue a claim against you for trademark infringement resulting in a name change for your business. A name change can be detrimental as a brand change can cost you a lot of business. I’ve had countless business owners contact our office due to an involuntary name change all because they failed to properly have an official search and wasted thousands of dollars on marketing materials. 

The search fee is different for each attorney. But a few hundred dollars now can save thousands down the road. If you’d like to get started with a search, feel free to email me – anitria@entreprelegal.com

Can I Copyright This?

Clients often ask the question, "Can I copyright this?" Most times our new clients have no idea that they could have added copyright protection for their work.  Unfortunately, it's usually after seeing their work displayed without their permission and most...