The Difference Is Extremely Important Under the Law!
If you live in the United States you’ve probably seen the TM (™) and R (®) symbols used in everything from advertisements to product packaging. But what do these symbols mean? And which one can you use for your own branding?
Both TM and R protect your intellectual property rights in the American marketplace. If you’ve built a strong company reputation or cultivated a market of loyal customers, your IP or brand name could be the most important or valuable part of your business. Both the TM and R symbols signify that the brand name or logo has some level of legal protection.
As a business owner, you know how critical it is to build up your brand’s reputation and market recognition. You work hard to cultivate an image that will appeal to your customers. So what happens if someone starts selling products or services under your brand name or logo? What if a competitor copies your product designs or marketing materials?
Trademarks and copyrights work to legally stop these nightmare scenarios from happening by protecting your intellectual property rights in different ways. Your intellectual property or brand could be your most valuable asset. We’ve already discussed how important trademarks are to businesses operating on Amazon and beyond. If you don't take steps to protect your IP, your hard-built business faces danger from copycats looking to cheat their way up.
Depending on the type of business you have, you may need a trademark, copyright, or both to protect your most important IP assets. But the laws around IP protection are not always straightforward. That’s where a knowledgeable business trademark and copyright lawyer comes in to help simplify and streamline the process.
By working with an experienced attorney, you can avoid losing hundreds of dollars and months of time to an incorrect trademark application or copyright registration. Plus, you get to rest assured that you’re taking the right steps to secure the future of your business.
So many business owners wonder if they should trademark their business name or logo. It's one of the most common questions I get. Particularly if you are looking to expand your business, license or franchise, getting the proper trademark protection in place is critical. What is involved, how do you submit an application, how long does it take? Find out in this video. If you are looking for a trademark lawyer, or would like to discuss the trademark application process and how much a trademark will cost, please set up a time to talk here.
Trademark registration is always a hot topic with my clients. If you're an entrepreneur, oftentimes you think you should figure something out by yourself to save money and just so you "know" how to do it. I do not believe in fear-mongering my clients, but trademark DIY is one area where you can get yourself into a whole heap of trouble.
There are a number of fine nuances involved in trademark law. First, there is the trademark search. A thorough search needs to be done to determine whether there is already a business out there with a same or similar name registered. Where does one search? In short, everywhere. Start with TESS, the federal database. A comprehensive, general search also needs to be done. Start with google, check your state trademark database and corporation name database.
After you search and conclude that no one is yet using your proposed name in your same category of goods or services, it's time to start thinking about what kind of application you will submit. There is an actual use basis or an intent-to-use basis. What's the difference? Well, luckily the folks at PTO are pretty literal, so the difference is exactly how it sounds. Actual use means you have actually been using the mark in connection with your goods or services. Intent-to-use means you have not started using it, but have a bona fide intention to do so. Each basis has different requirements in terms of what you need to submit to show your mark. Intent-to-use has some additional fees and paperwork to be completed.
Then, you'll need to choose which class or classes of goods or services your mark falls into. Also, is it a design mark or plain word mark? You'll need to prepare a specimen to submit. Make sure it complies with any file format requirements and properly shows the mark.
Is your head spinning yet? Don't you have better things to do, like running your business? Money spent for an attorney to handle your application is money well spent and allows you to focus on getting more business. Still want to go it on your own? Be prepared to reply promptly to any action letters from USPTO. What's an action letter? Hint: it's definitely time to call an attorney!
Manayunk Roxborough Art Center located at 419 Green Lane (rear) in Philadelphia is offering a special humanities program, " Sarah E. Holmes - Talk on Copyrights & Trademarks" on Monday, April 21 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. Refreshments will be provided.
Need to register a trademark and a few copyrights but not sure where to start? I'm now offering a copyright and trademark registration package for small business owners.
For a flat fee, I'll perform a trademark search, register one trademark, register up to ten copyrights and advise you on your intellectual property needs! Contact me for details.
A great article ran last weekend in the Philadelphia Inquirer about piracy on the web of artists' images.
If you're a photographer, it's crucial to insert a watermark or other unique attribute into your images when you post them to the web. This will make it much easier to determine when an image has been improperly pilfered by another party and possibly allow you to claim additional damages if the watermark is tampered with.
Images can also be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for $35 each. It's also best to register the copyright before the image or work is released publicly. For example, if you have an art show coming up, register your works within three months of your show to get the best protection.
When in doubt, consult with a small business lawyer about what protections you may need.
When starting a business, one of the first things many people come up with is a name. They may start doing business under their company name for quite some time before they decide to make it "official" by incorporating, establishing a bank account, building a website or ordering business cards. By the time they get around to doing these things, they may be disheartened to find their desired business name is not available.
When setting up a business for which you will not be using your own name, first check your state's corporations database to see if any others have registered that name to do business. If they have, it does not automatically mean you cannot use the same name, but if the name is being used in the same industry or same type of business in the same area, you may need to think of a new name. In many areas, if you do business as any name other than your own, you may have to file a "fictitious name" registration with the state.
A second concern with a name is to find out if the name is already trademarked. You can do a simple trademark search at the federal government's TESS website, here: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4805:nxa6t5.1.1
If the name is already trademarked, look at what industry and location the name is used for. If it's a nationally recognized name brand, it may be best to steer clear and find another name.
Finally, but sometimes most importantly, is to find out if your business name is available as a website domain. A simple search can be done at godaddy.com. If you plan to have people find your business on the internet, your domain name needs to be some variation of your business name or the type of good or service you are providing. For example, if you are starting a XYZ paper company in Philadelphia and you need people to find your business on the internet, you need to find out if the domain XYZpaper.com is available, or XYZphiladelphiapaper, or phillycheappaper.com. If you cannot get your company name for a domain, at least get a domain name that is a description of what someone will type into a google search to find your product or service.
Of course, a small business lawyer can help you with all of these tasks. I offer name search services as part of my small business and incorporation packages. Email or call me today for help.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way. When you're looking for a business lawyer in Philadelphia, the Main Line or New Jersey, we can help.