Written by Josh Gerben
For many small business owners and entrepreneurs, trademark law can often be a tricky and misunderstood area of their business. Since there is an expense involved, many business owners wrongly feel this is a part of their business they can put off till later.
However, if not secured correctly, there is potential your trademark and brand could be taken advantage of, which can be detrimental to your business down the road. Below are five common trademarking misconceptions among business owners and why you should take correct action on these myths before they come back to haunt you.
Myth 1: I don’t need to file my trademark because my business is small and just starting out.
Fact: Even small businesses who are just starting out should register their trademarks with the USPTO. Registering your trademark helps protect the investment you are making in your business¾ and in your business name.
Myth 2: It’s smarter to file the trademark application myself to save money.
Fact: You could end up LOSING money by filing the trademark yourself. If you apply for a trademark and it turns out there is another trademark similar to yours already registered (for example), you will be out the $325 government filing fee…with nothing to show for it. Or, you could apply for a trademark someone already has common law rights in and end up in a costly legal battle. It is always wise to consult with an attorney to conduct a professional search and give you a professional opinion before filing your trademark application.
Myth 3: Once my trademark is registered I don’t need to do anything else to protect my trademark.
Fact: After your trademark is registered it is your responsibility to monitor the marketplace to make sure nobody else is using your trademark. If you find out someone IS using your trademark, you must enforce your rights by notifying the infringer. In addition, your trademark must be renewed every 10 years (and between the 5th and 6th year) after it is registered.
Myth 4: I can change an existing trademark just a little bit and call it my own. Cha-ching!
Fact: Actually, in most circumstances you can’t. The purpose of trademark law is to protect the investment business owners make in their companies and to protect consumers from confusion in the marketplace. Therefore if you were allowed to, say, sell Reebokz brand shoes (even though the well-known Reebok shoe company exists) this would hurt both Reebok and customers who may be confused into thinking your product is made by Reebok.
Myth 5: It’s better to register a snazzy logo than just the words themselves.
Fact: While in some limited circumstances this is true, generally you receive broader protection by applying to register “just” the words. This is because once your logo is filed, you cannot change it at all; if you were to change your logo even slightly after filing, you would lose all rights in your trademark. If you file for just words, however, those words are protected no matter what color, size, or font they are in.
About the Author
Joshua Gerben is the principal of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a firm that focuses specifically on trademark law and services related to trademarks. Gerben Law works with individuals and businesses looking to protect their assets through search, application and registration processes. You can learn more about trademarks by visiting Gerben Law Firm’s trademark university.