At Snow Christensen & Martineau, our experts can help safeguard your company from trademark infringement. A trademark is any name, letter, number, design, phrase, symbol, or combination of those elements that distinguishes one party as the source of certain goods. These trademarks help consumers identify who makes a certain product, and help them tell the difference between two company’s products. Over time, your trademark builds up a reputation. Your consumers know what level of quality to expect when they see your company’s trademark.
Using a trademark and owning a federal registration for your trademark is not the same thing. Some companies include a “TM” or “SM” beside their company trademark. This indicates that the company considers that mark as their trademark or service mark, even though they have not officially registered it. Companies that have obtained federal registration for their mark use the “R” in a circle symbol after their mark. Officially registered companies benefit from increased, nationwide protection of their trademark.
A company’s most valuable asset may be the goodwill associated with its name, or the name of its products or designs, and the associated reputation for quality or innovation. Branding is very important because it designates the origin of the company’s products. It is equally important, however, to keep others from capitalizing on the goodwill by adopting confusingly similar trademarks.
When you register your trademark, you:
- Discourage others from using confusingly similar marks by making the mark easy to find in a trademark availability search
- Are protected against others trying to register a mark that is similar to yours
- Have nationwide notice of your ownership of the mark
- Establish a legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use it
- Have advantages in when proving the mark is yours in court
- Have priority when registering your trademarks internationally using the U.S. Priority Date
Promptly registering important trademarks is a vital first step for businesses and individuals. By properly protecting trademarks early, a company can discourage competitors from adopting similar names and can increase the likelihood of a prompt resolution to any attempts to misappropriate the company’s goodwill. Failing to promptly protect the trademarks, in contrast, can significantly interfere with enforcement of trademark rights in the event of trademark infringement. Additionally, obtaining registration of a trademark can help ensure the right to use the mark, even if it is later discovered that another party has prior rights.
At the behest of the Utah State Bar in 2015, Randall B. Bateman conducted the New Lawyer Trademark Law Seminar for new attorneys and interested individuals. This material is now available online. For a crash course in trademarks, this is the place to start.