Brand protection through Trademark registration

A brand, if managed correctly, can become an incredibly valuable asset to a business.  Unlike most other intellectual property, a trademark (i.e., a brand) can increase in value over time because it can have a very, very long life.  By comparison, a patent declines in value because they expire after 20 years.  A well-managed brand can continue build value long after other intellectual property has passed away into the public domain.

Registering your brand as a trademark or service mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is the smart first step in building value for the brand.  Getting federal registration of your mark provides several benefits:

  • A nation-wide presumption of your ownership in the mark.
  • The exclusive right to use the mark in connection with your goods/services listed in your registration.
  • The right to seek relief in federal court to protect your mark (which may include an injunction and monetary damages).
  • Notice to the public of your ownership of the mark.

The process of applying for registration may also reveal pitfalls to the brand you intend to use.  For example, you may find that your brand is already being used by someone else, or that another brand is confusingly similar to the one you plan to use. Learning of potential conflicting marks to your proposed brand will help you make important decisions about your business plans, and save significant investment of time and money.  For example, your brand may be able to co-exist with a mark that is already in use, or you may switch to a new brand altogether.

Your brand strategy might also involve elements beyond just a word, phrase, or symbol.  Trademark registration is available for other things that are distinctly associated with your brand, such as:

  • colors
  • smells
  • sounds
  • product shapes

These unusual marks are becoming increasingly attractive to brand owners seeking to capitalize on distinctive aspects of their branding strategy.  A famous example is the trademark for the contoured Coca-Cola bottle.  Unusual marks are difficult to register, but can be quite powerful in the marketplace.

The bottom line is that seeking a federal trademark registration for your brand can be the solid foundation for building its value.  Many businesses make considerable investment in building brand awareness and goodwill over the long-term.  Trademark registration is a wise move for protecting that investment.