Trademark Basics: 6 Things Every Small Business Should Know

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies the source of goods or services. Individuals and businesses can use trademarks to protect their brands and products from being copied or duplicated by market competitors. This is because having a registered trademark gives you exclusive rights over it, preventing others from using or exploiting it in any way.  

Furthermore, trademarks are essential for consumers to know what they’re buying and from whom they’re buying it. Thus, making trademarks crucial in building brand perception. 

If you’re a small business owner, you must be knowledgeable about the trademark basics. This article discusses the importance of trademark registration and six things every small business must know about trademarks. Read on. 

Why Do You Need Trademark Registration? 

There are numerous benefits of trademark registration. Aside from providing you exclusive rights over your trademark, registering your trademark means bringing your business into the public eye and letting the world know what you do. It lets others know that you have a certain quality in your products or services, which helps establish trust between you and consumers.   

When people see the name of a company they recognize, it builds credibility for that organization because it’s already established itself in their minds as being trustworthy. This can help attract new clients or customers to your business, such as if they know about it from somewhere else or through word-of-mouth marketing efforts. 

Trademark Basics Small Businesses Should Know  

As a small business owner, you’re expected to have your brand trademarked. Since you now know the benefits that come with trademarking your business, here are the six trademark basics you should know: 

  1. Trademarks Protect Your Brand 

The more you can do to protect your trademark and prevent others from using it, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Trademarks protect your brand from being used or misused by competitors. These can prevent others from using your brand name or logo unauthorizedly.  

Additionally, trademarks help build brand loyalty by creating a unique association in the minds of consumers that can be used to differentiate your business from competitors. By creating a trademark, you can establish a reputation as an expert in your field and create a positive association with your brand. This can lead to increased sales and loyal customers. 

  1. Similar Business Names Cause Confusion 

There’s a reason you see businesses with names that are distinctive and not confusing. If your business name is similar to another company’s, you may have trouble getting customers to remember who you are and where they can find your services or products. 

In addition to making it difficult for potential customers to remember how to find them, a confusingly similar business name can cause confusion in the marketplace if consumers become confused about which brand is which. This could damage your reputation with customers, particularly if the other company has an established reputation for its product or service. 

  1. Conducting A Trademark Search Is Crucial 

If you’re planning to start a new business or launch a new product, you must conduct a trademark search. Trademark search allows you to search for registered marks to avoid infringing on someone else’s trademark—making it a vital step before making official decisions about your business name or product name. 

The most accessible and affordable way to research trademarks is by conducting a trademark search using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. The USPTO offers an online database of all valid trademark applications and registrations, so you can search for existing trademarks before filing your trademark registration. You can do this by checking USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). TESS allows you to search for existing registered trademarks as well as pending applications. 

You can also check search engines to see if others had used similar names, logos, or slogans in their businesses before you did. Additionally, you can contact an attorney for advice about whether or not it would be worth pursuing registration for your chosen name. Thus, you’re relieving yourself of the stress that comes with trademark infringement lawsuits. 

  1.  Trademark Filings Are Not Optional for Most People 

For most people, filing a trademark application isn’t optional: If you want to use your mark in interstate commerce, you need to apply with the USPTO. A trademark can be used in interstate commerce when sold or advertised to consumers across state lines. 

But not everyone needs to file their trademarks with the USPTO. Some businesses opt for state-level protection instead of federal protection (which extends across state lines). State registration means customers will still recognize your business if they live close enough. 

  1. Trademark Class Matters 

If you’re planning to register your trademark with the USPTO, you must know which class of goods your trademark will apply. USPTO has 45 classes of goods and services, and these classes are categories used by USPTO to easily identify and classify types of goods and services in your application. Additionally, your application fee will be determined by the number of classes included in your application.   

It’s crucial to choose the correct class for your trademark application. There will be instances where your trademark applies to more than one class. If you’re unsure which trademark classes to choose, it’s best to consult a trademark lawyer. 

  1. Infringement Is More Expensive Than Filing 

Infringement can be costly. The cost goes beyond the price of filing a trademark registration considering various factors like legal fees and litigation costs. Aside from being costly, it’s also demanding. It involves steps and back-and-forth requirements to defend your mark in court.  

The good news is that filing a trademark application is relatively inexpensive; it just depends on the type of trademark and what classes it applies to (the more classes you apply for at once, the higher your fee). This makes filing a trademark application low-cost compared with infringement liability exposure. Keep in mind that there are other important factors to consider before deciding whether or not you want to apply, such as regional law, brand elements, business objectives, and mark availability.   

Trademarking your business name and logo is crucial for protecting your brand. You work hard to create a recognizable, valuable brand, and it’s worth spending the time and money on getting it protected legally. Thus, consider a trademark to protect your intellectual property. 

June McGown