Imagine if you can for one moment..
You’ve taken the time to systematically chose a winning product, you’ve committed time and energy to building a great brand that your customers have come to love and trust and you’re making great sales.
Your business is buzzing along nicely and you’re brand has grown to become what you believe is a valuable asset. So far so good..
Everything’s going just fine until one day and all of a sudden..
..you’re sales drop to the point your business is no longer sustainable.
Although why would this happen? How could this happen after you’ve committed time and energy to make your brand unique and ensure your products add value..
Then you notice that someone else is using your brand name or product name and is copying your stuff!
Heck if anything is perceived to have any value in this world its inevitable and a sad truth that some low-down and dirty cowboys somewhere will try to copy your stuff like-for-like, it can and does happen.
But how can YOU take steps to protect your brand and products legally?
The answer is..
.. by claiming or registering a legally recognized trademark.
When you protect your brand name with a registered trademark there’s no doubt about it (-in the eyes of the law at least-) that you’re the true owner of your mark.
Your ‘trading mark’ or trademark is something that’s unique to your brand and to your business.
‘By registering you’re trademark you’ll be protecting your brand mark in the eyes
of the general public and the law”
When someone sees your mark they can recognize your brand as belonging to the registered owner at the Intellectual Property Office (that’s IP Office to you and I), and to anyone who else wants to know.
Successfully register you’re mark and there’s no doubt about who owns it.
As soon as you DO have a brand that you’ve built up over time and that you’ve decided is worth protecting (-although not all new brands WILL warrant this because you’ve got to first have something that’s perceived to valuable-) then as soon as you have something you want to protect you can visit your local Government Intellectual Property office and attempt to register your trademark.
You can register your mark online and use the ‘®’ symbol
There are costs involved in this process so first you’ll want to be sure that you really do need to protect your brand name.
The costs involved to do this are displayed on the governmental websites (I’ve made links available below for your convenience).
Usually it’s at least a few hundred dollars or more to apply to register a trademark yourself. You can also hire a trademark attorney to help you although it is quite possible to do it yourself.
Although even if you apply to register a mark there’s no guaranteeing that you’ll successfully be allowed to register your brand. That is, IF the name or graphic image that you’re trying to register infringes on an existing brand in the registry. So another good reason to check the database BEFORE you grow and develop your brand.
As I mentioned before this process of registering your mark does have costs associated with it.
If you DO manage to register your mark then you will legally be allowed to use the ‘®’ symbol next to your mark. Only trademarks that exist in the official IP Office registry are legally allowed to use the ‘®’ symbol.
But what if you’re not at that stage yet?
What if you’re just starting to develop your brand and your first product and you’re not sure 100% whether this is going to the brand that is going to be the one that you pursue?
Here’s something you CAN do..
In the meantime instead of paying to register with the IP Office you can legally use the ™ symbol next to your mark without paying anything.
You don’t even have to register it anywhere. although it would be a good idea to check the intellectual property database beforehand.
By using the ™ symbol you’re simply making a public statement that this is your trademark – So if you’re confident that your trademark IS unique then go ahead and use the ™ symbol right away.
As soon as you use the free-to-use ™ symbol, it’s also good idea to make a public record of it.
If you’re trademark is on your product on the internet then take a screen capture of your product on sale on your screen. Include a record of the date if you can,
(on a windows PC machine you can ‘print screen’ by using the ‘Function’ and ‘Prt Sc’ buttons).
By doing this you’re recording the first date that you begin claiming the ™ on your trademark and this is something that can be used legally to defend your trademark if ever needed.
Of course the symbol always trumps the ™ symbol although these are the options available to you.
Another additional layer of protection is to buy your .com domain name for your brand and any other related domains that you might feel you will need to use for your brand in the future.
There’s a small cost involved to buy your website domain usually around $10/year although get it now so you won’t be disappointed later on if the domain is no longer available.
Ok, so we’ve discussed about how you can register your trademark but remember this also works the other way.
What I mean by that is if you seem to be infringing on any existing trademark belonging to someone else, then they have the legal write to ask you to stop infringing on their mark – and you’ll be asked to stop using the infringing materials.
This is quite rare although If this does happen to you then in the first instance you would usually receive a simple cease and desist letter from the trademarks’ attorney.
This letter would simply state what materials they believe are infringing on their mark and you’ll be asked to remove it. If you fail to do so you could be open to further legal proceedings.
So it’s also definitely a good idea to check the IP Office website and make sure that any new name you decide to use for your brand name and product name isn’t already registered.
It’s quite simple to do, simply visit the IP Office website for your country where you are trading in and look for something along the lines of ‘search trademarks’ or ‘search trademark database’.
Type in your brand name into the search box and look for anything that is identical or could be mistaken for your new brand name.
The IP Office register trademarks to categories of products so you CAN still use a mark that isn’t registered in the category of product you want to use although If you find an existing mark in a category of products that also relates to your category then it’s better to not use the name and to simply create a totally new one.
Don’t let this prevent you from building a fantastic brand – if you’re brand gets traction check the IPO database to ensure you can protect your asset and you’ll probably thank me for it later!
To Your Success!
To search for existing trademarks and to register a new one visit the following government run websites:-