01 Aug Protecting Your Brand with a Trademark
So much of a business is ensuring that people know your brand. Whether it is a slogan, your name or a particular logo, you – as a business owner – want people to know who you are and recognize your business when they come across your branding. Yet, protecting the brand is often one of the last things a busy entrepreneur considers or understands. Trademark protection is generally limited to logos, brand names, and slogans affiliated with your company and its particular use of that logo, brand name or slogan (maybe you sell t-shirts or you provide business consulting services). When first starting your business and identifying the business name, slogan or logo (“marks”), remember that the mark cannot be generically descriptive. Meaning, for example, that a law firm could not trademark the name “Law Firm” because it is too generic and descriptive of what is being done. There must be some way to distinguish the “Law Firm” from all law firms generally and allow those other law firms to co-exist.
It is also a good idea to confirm whether other companies are using those marks already and if so, it will be necessary to determine whether the marks are confusingly similar. It will also be necessary to determine if it is possible to distinguish your mark from the preexisting mark or to distinguish the uses for which the mark will apply so that you can obtain your own trademark. ** It may not be possible to distinguish your mark from the preexisting mark and so, if caught early on, a business can pick a different name, slogan or logo to avoid heartache down the road.
If your business is, or will soon, be operating across state lines you will want to consider applying for a federal trademark. This will prevent other companies from using your trademark in similar types of uses. If you are operating only within the state of Michigan, you may wish only to obtain a trademark within the State.
Once the trademark application is submitted, it will be assigned to an examiner who will review the application for compliance, and potentially conflicts with a preexisting trademark. The federal application process takes several months. The proposed trademark will be published and the public will be given the opportunity to object. If no objections are made, the trademark will officially be registered. In Michigan, there is no publication for purposes of public objection.
**Search online federal trademarks at:
**Search online Michigan trademarks at: http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/dms/results.asp?docowner=BCSC&doccat=Mark&Search=Search