Building a brand takes a lot of time and money. It also often requires legal protection. If you fail to protect your brand, someone else could steal it and use it to market their own products or services. Here are seven of the most common brand protection mistakes companies make.
1. Not Researching a Brand Name
Brand protection starts before you file a trademark application or begin conducting business with the name. To avoid legal hassles down the road, companies should research potential names, logos, or slogans.
Your research should include social media profiles and blogs. Look for any use of the potential brand name. If the name becomes a commonly used term in the public sphere, you will have a hard time obtaining a trademark.
Researching a brand name also requires companies to consider international meanings, especially when using words taken from a foreign language.
Find out if the spelling or pronunciation of the name has any other meanings in foreign countries.
To round out the research, find out if others have applied for the same trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) publishes lists of trademark applications, allowing you to search for similar marks.
2. Using a Generic Brand Name
If the brand name is easily confused with other names, you may face future litigation or disputes from other business owners.
The name that you choose also impacts your ability to obtain a trademark. If the name is generic, you cannot trademark your brand.
For example, you could not trademark the name “baseball caps.”
Descriptive names are also occasionally difficult to trademark without establishing yourself in your industry. A descriptive brand contains an adjective or descriptor combined with a generic term, such as “Holiday Inn” or “Pizza Hut.”
The best choices include distinct, unique names available for use in local or international markets.
3. Filing a Trademark Application Too Early
THE USPTO gives you two options for filing a trademark application. You can file an “actual use” or “intent to use” application.
You file the “actual use” application when you already use the trademark in commerce. This is the recommended option for most organizations and startups.
With the “intent to use” application, you file before you start using the trademark. The USPTO allows you to file this application up to six months early. However, the application costs more and you risk having the application denied if you do not have a legally strong trademark.
If you use the “intent to use” application and file too early, you may end up needing to abandon the trademark, allowing other businesses to start using it.
4. Filing a Trademark Application Too Late
Entrepreneurs sometimes make the mistake of registering a business name with their local government and then forgetting about the trademark.
Filing the paperwork to conduct business as your brand name does not mean that you automatically own the trademark. You still need to register with the USPTO. If you wait too long, someone else may come along and take the brand name.
Depending on the state where your business operates, using the name without a trademark entitles you to some protection. However, after another business receives the trademark, it becomes difficult to object to the application.
5. Not Enforcing Your Trademark Rights
After you obtain a trademark, it is your responsibility to protect your brand. The USPTO attempts to prevent infringement during the application process, but you need to handle legal action on your own.
Constantly monitor the use of the brand across different industries and geographical regions. If another company starts infringing on your trademark rights, you have a better chance of a quick resolution when caught early.
For help enforcing your trademark, use trademark monitoring software or work with an experienced trademark monitoring attorney, an example being the global trademark watch service by Bonamark. Trademark attorneys have access to the resources needed to track & monitor the use of related names, including trademark applications containing similar branding.
6. Choosing the Wrong Classes for Products or Services
When filing a trademark application, you need to select the trademark class for your products or services.
Dozens of classes exist, covering everything from t-shirts to dog food. You can only apply for the use of the trademark for classes that apply to your offerings.
Trying to receive a trademark for additional classes may keep the USPTO from approving your application. However, if you overlook an applicable class, you leave it open for someone else to use it.
Class 25 covers clothing and apparel products while Class 28 covers toys and sporting goods products. If you sell sports apparel and equipment, you would want to apply for a trademark for both classes.
If you receive a trademark for Class 25, but not Class 28, another company could use similar branding to market sporting goods products.
7. Not Hiring an Experienced Trademark Attorney
Based on the mistakes discussed, protecting a brand is not always easy. You may need to file legal action against companies infringing on your trademark. You also need to ensure that your trademark application contains no errors and does not infringe on someone else’s trademark.
A trademark attorney can help with these steps. Instead of finding yourself committing one of these common mistakes, you can allow an experienced attorney to protect your brand.