You’ve developed a successful business with an expanding client base. Everything seems to be going in the right direction. This is a wonderful position to be in and I congratulate you for creating such a prosperous enterprise. Building and maintaining a business is tough.
But, up to this point, you’ve probably only focused on paying your bills and marketing your services. And while these day-to-day tasks are key to the company’s well-being, you must not overlook the importance of safeguarding your image, especially as your business starts to grow.
Now, when I refer to “safeguarding your image,” I am focusing on protecting your brand. And since you’ve established yourself in the marketplace, securing your company’s brand is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Indeed, without the proper protections in place to protect your brand, it’s quite possible that everything you’ve generated could be taken away from you without any notice. That’s why I am dedicating this blog to the best way you can preserve the brand of your business.
In Practical Terms
To help my clients understand the importance of protecting their brand, I often ask a question that may come across as shocking to some: if an individual were to come along and steal your entire business from you, how much ransom would you pay to get it back? Now, that might sound like a hypothetical situation. However, it happens all the time.
So, for this reason, I always advise business owners to obtain trademarks and servicemarks to protect the intellectual property associated with their companies. Generally, you will recall from my earlier blogs that a trademark is used to protect a product and a servicemark is used to protect for a business’ name.
The protection you receive from either trademarks or servicemarks should be used in the following three situations:
- If you have something that can be seen such as a logo or a design, it should be protected by a trademark or a servicemark.
- If you have an item that can be heard or said such as a slogan or a tagline, it should be protected by a trademark or a servicemark.
- If you own something that someone else might try to hijack like a domain name, it should be protected by a trademark or a servicemark.
Whether you wish to protect these elements on the state or the federal level, trademarks and servicemarks do the trick. And the little “TM” or “SM” next to your brand name or design will give notice to the world that you have the absolute and exclusive right to this valuable intellectual property. This will serve as a serious warning to anyone who might otherwise be considering stealing the brand that represents your business. For a reasonable fee (approximately $10), you can ensure your image is sheltered in Illinois. If you wish to secure the same protection in another state in which you currently do business or expect to do business in the future, you can easily do so by registering for this trademark or servicemark with the Secretary of State of that other state. If you wish to have protection of your brand on a national level and be protected in all fifty states, you will need to apply for a federal trademark or servicemark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. While the process is a bit more lengthy (6-8 months) and more expensive (approximately $2,500), it is worth the extra time and expense if your business brand is being exposed to the public on a national level.
Additionally, by going through the registration process, you may find out if your brand is already in use by another business. If so, you can consider your options for modifying your brand so as to avoid an infringement claim or for contacting the owner of the trademark/servicemark to discuss how you may license or purchase the trademark/servicemark and thereby preserve your brand without having to alter it. In this way, you’ll not only retain the investment in all of your company’s marketing materials, you’ll have the power to stop someone else from pirating your brand in the future.
Next time, I will go into more depth about the differences between a trademark and a servicemark. I’ll also briefly discuss the protection of a copyright and I will provide you with essential information about the process of obtaining these protections. Plus, whether you’re looking for state or federal coverage of your brand, I’ll discuss the steps involved in making sure another business owner is unable to seize your image.