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Don't invest in a business trademark prematurely

Every young entrepreneur these days knows that branding is important to marketing -- and trademarks are a part of branding.

Unfortunately, a lot of new business owners end up investing a lot of resources in a trademark prematurely -- and that can backfire in a big way. Here's what you should know.

Trademarks are the symbols, words and designs that identify your brand -- and whatever your brand produces -- from other brands on sight. For example, the big golden "M" associated with the McDonald's restaurant chain is one of its trademarks.

Having a trademark protects your brand's goods and services from being copied by other people -- which protects your reputation. That protects consumers by making sure that they get what they pay for -- instead of a cheap imitation. It's also critical in a lot of marketing efforts. When people instantly recognize a trademark, like the apple symbol with a bite out of it that's used for Apple products, they make mental associations with that brand that are hopefully favorable. The instant recognition also makes advertising easier, since people generally process images and symbols faster than they do actual printed words.

But choosing a trademark for your company isn't an easy job. It takes work and a great deal of research to make certain that someone else isn't already using that trademark or something similar. If you invest in a trademark prior to its approval by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you could end up financially damaging your own company.

For one thing, you may end up spending a lot of cash to put your trademark on everything from promotional material to products -- all of which would become instantly useless if your trademark application gets rejected. In addition, you could end up having a sort of identity crisis with your brand -- especially if you're forced to change trademarks and some of your customers become confused.

Trademark law can be confusing and the research into any potential trademark has to be extensive to be complete. A business law attorney can help you through the process and make sure that you don't end up wasting a lot of effort and money on a trademark that can't be obtained.

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