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Should a small business obtain a federal trademark?

You developed a brilliant brand name – something that will distinguish your business from the entire market. Now you have a choice. Do you focus on growing your business first, or do you dedicate time to turn your brand name into a federal trademark?

The answer won’t be the same for every entrepreneur. You have to evaluate the needs of your company and if a trademark is necessary for the business plan. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a trademark may save you time and money in the long term.

Trademark basics

Before investing in a trademark, it’s crucial to understand why they exist and what the advantages are. The trademark is any word, slogan, design or combination of these things that identifies the source of the good and services for a specific business. Typical examples of trademarks are “Just do it” by Nike, the McDonald’s jingle or Google’s logo.

Trademarks are useful because they allow companies to protect brands and distinguish products from competitors. However, they are not the same as copyrights or patents. A copyright protects an original piece of art or literary works, such as songs or movies, while a patent protects a specific invention or mechanical designs.

There are circumstances where a corporation implements all three types of protections, but most small businesses do not need all three. The business owners have to decide what protections are necessary for the company.

When is a trademark right for my business?

The main drawback to a trademark is you need to use it consistently. If you do not use your trademark and another company applies for that same mark, the U.S. government could easily award it to your competitor.

You also renew trademarks five years after the initial application. Then you renew again after nine years. For the second renewal, you file a Declaration of Use – a document showing how you are using the trademark consistently and in a high-quality manner.

It may be a huge disadvantage for a company who wants to shift their image all the time; it would not make sense to trademark every aspect of their marketing strategy if it’s going to change in the next few years or months.

Ultimately, trademarks are significant assets when used correctly. If you want to establish a long-lasting brand, a mark is an excellent resource to protect your image from other competitors. Consult with a trademark attorney before you officially apply for any trademark protections.

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