By Andrew Comer
The entrepreneurs I work with are understandably focused on growing their businesses and not nearly as interested in legal considerations. However, when I tell a business owner that they could be risking their brand ideas, investor dollars, or even the future sale of their business by not protecting the key identifiers of their company, it resonates. Everyone wants to protect their brand. Registering trademarks can be one of the most cost-efficient ways to protect your brand and company, especially given the scale of the risks.
So, what are the risks of not taking the basic steps of registering your name or logos (also known as your “marks”)?
Other parties could use identical or similar marks and create confusion in the public’s mind, which could potentially diminish your sales and the value of your business. In the worst-case scenario, it could even result in your losing rights and priorities in your marks.
You could have to rebrand, resulting in a huge loss of brand equity and significant cost in developing an alternative.
You could be forced to litigate a trademark infringement case for unknowingly infringing on someone else’s identical or similar brand name, image, design or logo, and would have a less persuasive case in enforcing your own mark.
Without registering the key identifiers of your business, your company can be much less attractive to investors or potential buyers.
Once you’ve decided it’s worth your time and energy to ensure your trademarks are registered, you have to navigate the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Despite receiving more than a million trademark applications each year, the USPTO is not rushing to rubber-stamp applications. Instead, they will not let a trademark application proceed without a complete examination of the application for various issues and without allowing third parties to dispute the registration. And, the entire process from application development to completed review can take months. A large part of that is because trademark applications are so lengthy and complex. Additionally, there are many legal requirements involved in obtaining registration.
Working with a trademark attorney on your application can help you overcome many hurdles along the way and usually means you have a significantly better chance of securing your trademark rights. The USPTO website itself states, “Although you are not required to have an attorney, we strongly encourage you to hire a U.S.-licensed attorney who specializes in trademark law to guide you through the application process.”
Attorneys who regularly work on trademark applications understand the nuances of crafting an application that will get out ahead of the almost-inevitable USPTO pushback and anticipate any questions. Attorneys can prepare an application that strikes a balance between not being broad enough to provide all the possible protections and being too broad to be accepted, which can be quite a balancing act!
But what about the expense? As an entrepreneur, you don’t have money to burn. Well, contrary to popular belief, hiring a trademark attorney to help formulate your application is relatively cost-effective. Most of our applications are submitted for a few thousand dollars (including fees), and the benefits can be enormous.
If you are considering trademarking your business name, logo, symbol, or image, Fortis Law Partners is happy to help. Contact Andrew Comer for more information or to arrange a consultation.