As a trademark attorney, I get asked this question a lot:
"But Joey ... why? Why does my business need to worry about trademark protections?"
It's a good question. Let's talk about it.
Trademarks are everywhere. From the moment you wake up from you Tempur—Pedic® bed, put on those slippers from Target®, and check Facebook® on your iPhone® as you walk to your Keurig® machine to sip on some Starbucks® coffee ... you're interacting with trademarks all day long.
Trademarks protect brands. They identify the source of a product or service and distinguish it from others. Businesses love trademarks because they help avoid customer confusion and allow brands to become powerful assets.
When you're at the grocery store and choose the a certain brand over a bottom-shelf option ... trademarks help make that happen.
Sure, the trademarks I emphasized above are all big brands that we all know. But that doesn't mean that only big businesses care about trademarks.
Trademarks are incredibly powerful for small businesses well.
As you know, entrepreneurship is exploding right now. It seems like everyone and their moms are starting some freelance gig, opening up an Etsy shop, or starting a YouTube show or podcast.
With so many new businesses starting and growing, trademarks seem to be getting neglecting on the "legal to-do list."
That can be very risky for your business. Here's why.
You might think trademarks are a complicated area of the law that you'd rather not think about. And you're right — it is complicated! But here are three easy-to-understand reasons why trademarks can be incredibly helpful for your business.
The best way to protect your trademarks is to get your trademark registered at the federal level. This US registration gives you exclusive rights to your trademark across the United States.
For example, let's talk about the name of your business. The name your customers know you buy.
Without a trademark registration in place, you don't really own your brand. Now, you have [yourbusiness].com, all the social media handles, or an LLC with your name. Even if you have ALL of those, you don't have any exclusive nationwide rights to you the name of your business.
In other words, your business is at risk of being told by another business that you're infringing on their trademark and need to change your name.
This can — and often does — happen. Entrepreneurs reach out to me all the time about cease and desist letters they received, even though they were the first to use the trademark.
The easiest and most effective way to prevent this from happening to you is to apply for your own trademark registration as soon as your business and the trademark becomes viable.
Being told you have to rebrand because of trademark infringement is a scary and frustrating process. So is discovering that another business — maybe even a competitor — has started using your brand themselves.
When this happens, the way to stop them is through trademark laws.
But if you don't have that registration in place, there's little you can do.
Again, it's worth it to be proactive here. Think about trademark protections as a kind of insurance — you're investing to protect your brand and own the rights to it exclusively.
Naming your business can be one of the more fun parts of running a business. You get to think about your brand and how your business is going to be different from the rest.
When you narrow that list of options to your favorite name, it can really stink to see that someone owns the ".com" or social media handle for it.
Finding a name that's "available" online is increasingly difficult. So many great names and variations seem to already be taken.
With a trademark registration in place, however, it can become a lot easier to force digital squatters to hand them over to you. Under U.S. law, registered trademark owners have superior rights to those kinds of digital assets.
Securing trademark rights is critical to growing business owners. And while it might be best to hire a lawyer to assist you with the process, this is something you can do on you own.
Isn't time you legit OWNED your brand? After helping thousands of entrepreneurs on the legal side, I'm handing over my exact, step-by-step method for calling dibs on your trademarks (without needing to hire a lawyer) ... for FREE! Learn more here.