‘What does a trademark protect?’ This is a question many business owners find themselves asking when they begin a new venture. A trademark is an important type of intellectual property protection, which can stop people from claiming your idea as their own.
This article will cover five key things you need to understand about what a trademark protects and why you may need one for your business.
Where Do You Apply For A Trademark?
Before we understand what trademarks protect, we must understand how you get one.
Obtaining a trademark can be time-consuming as it involves multiple processes and documentation. This is why most companies will use a trademark support service, as they will understand the intricacies of what is needed for the process to run smoothly.
You must apply for a trademark with your country’s government. In the UK, your legal support team would do this for you, using the official government portal to upload any needed documentation as they request it. In the US, the process is similar and is done by filing with the USPTO (United State Patent and Trademark Office).
What Does A Trademark Protect?
There is a myriad of important things that a trademark helps you to protect. It’s needed for everything from legal insurance to crafting a brand identity.
Five of the key reasons you should look into trademarking include:
#1 Your Businesses Branding
The first thing a trademark protects is your branding. Branding is important for ensuring that your brand is recognizable and marketable; it is the first thing customers will think about when they think of your company. A trademark can protect your logo, slogan, designs, phrases or even words strongly associated with your specific brand.
For example, the US Sandwich chain Subway trademarked the phrase “Eat Fresh”, which meant that nobody else could market their products with this phrase. It made it unique to their brand, and now, when you hear ‘Eat Fresh.” your mind creates a connection with Subway.
#2 Your Businesses Reputation
Following on from the above, trademarking helps to protect your business’s reputation. If you have a specific set of branding associated with your business, and other brands start using it, too, this could negatively impact how your prospective customers see you. They may see you as inauthentic or, if another brand becomes more successful, as ripping off their idea.
To maintain a high level of professionalism and give a positive image to customers, it’s important to have trademarked the legal rights to your branding.
#3 Your Businesses Identity
Building a business identity is key to marketing success. Having a great product isn’t enough to get your name to potential customers alone; you must have a sales plan and unique identity which you can sell to customers.
Much like preserving your business’s reputation, you must preserve its identity by trademarking the features of your branding to make your business identity unique. Logos, slogans, and even very specific colour schemes (think: ‘Tiffany Blue‘) can help customers recognize your brand, forging a strong identity.
#4 Your Intellectual Property
Trademarking, alongside patenting, is a type of IP (Intellectual Property) law. Trademarking gives you the intellectual property rights to your branding while patenting gives you the rights to the product/invention itself. Both are vital in ensuring you have legal rights to everything you sell.
Owning the IP rights to your trademarked branding means you have the legal power to sue any company that unlawfully takes it and uses it for its own. And it also allows you to sell your IP rights alongside the company if you ever reach a point where you want to sell.
#5 Your Right To Exclusivity
Overall, what a trademark gives you is exclusivity.
It allows you to create an edge for your brand that nobody else has or can take. You are legally and creatively protected by your trademark, allowing you to create something that will excite your target demographic and make them feel as though they’re getting a truly special service when they purchase with your business.
When Should I Apply For A Trademark?
Now that we’ve answered, ‘what does a trademark protect?’ It’s time to think about the next commonly asked question, ‘when should I apply for one?’.
It’s wise to apply for a patent as soon as possible. As it can be a long process, it’s best to get the process started as soon as you have your branding and strategy ready. This will reduce the time spent waiting before launching your product and make you aware of any un-originalities in your designs.