Surprisingly, there are times when it makes sense not to file a trademark application. In some cases, a business owner will want to rely solely upon their “common law rights” which come from using the mark in the sale or distribution of goods or services.
Every entrepreneur will consider whether they should trademark their company name. I was one of those people. After I researched the pros and cons, the answer was crystal clear. In my opinion, it shouldn’t even be a question for anyone who wants to protect their company.
Trademarking Your Business Name
First, some background: in early 2015, after we changed our name from AQB to Fourlane®, we promptly applied for a trademark on Fourlane and our sister company, POSWarehouse®. Both names now have approved trademarks, or in this case, “service marks.”
A trademark (designated as ™) is used for words, phrases, symbols or designs to identify and distinguish the source of the goods of one party from others. A service mark (indicated by SM) “is essentially the same thing as a trademark, only a service mark is used in the sale of services, whereas trademarks are used in the sale of goods.”
You do not need federal or state registration to use the TM or SM symbols. However, the ® symbol provides “statutory notice” and can only be used if your mark is federally registered.
Despite the hassle of dealing with government agencies and paying for a trademark, there are essentials reasons why trademarking your business name is important. Trademarks:
Protect against impostors and copycats.
With a trademark, your name is legally protected so that no one can duplicate it. A trademark protects ownership rights over the name – a logo, tagline or whatever you’ve trademarked. Once you have a trademark, competitors can’t use your name. If they try, you can take swift, legal action.
Secure your brand on social media.
Customers search for brand names on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites. The social media venues have policies in place to protect you against abuse. Someone using your company name and misrepresenting your brand can result in suspension of the account. For example, our business name, Fourlane, was formerly a web design firm before we took over the URL. To get access to the Fourlane account, all we had to do was change the email address.
Nabisco Cream of Wheat, Carnation Condensed Milk and Pabst Blue Ribbon all have trademarks that are over 100 years old. Once the process of trademarking is complete, you’re protected with no pesky renewals. This also means we can sell our trademark if we ever want to do so.
Are relatively inexpensive.
Depending on the type of trademark you need, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office charges between $225 and $325 per trademark. The minimal fee makes the decision whether to trademark a no-brainer, but remember that this does not include any research or legal fees if you choose to hire a lawyer.
Build brand loyalty.
Registering your trademark mean you’re in it for the long haul. This reassures customers and staff that we’re committed to the business.
Safeguard against cybersquatting.
Cybersquatters register domain names that are identical or similar to well-known trademarks with the purpose of selling them for a high fee. The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, passed in 1999, allows the trademark owner to sue to collect damages from individuals who registered a domain name that is identical or similar to the trademark.
Trademarking may not be for everyone, but just like anything involving the government, the process can be arduous. However, I do not regret trademarking my business name. It’s the cost of ensuring that the business I’ve built remains solid for the long term.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of Fourlane, a firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments through bookkeeping, tax, software consulting and business process training. The firm specializes in showing customers that they can continue in higher level QuickBooks products as they grow. In her spare time, Marjorie catches up with one of her six sisters, sweats through a morning run, reads a business book or watches the latest AMC show. Connect with @marjoriejadams on Twitter.
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