To Trademark or Not to Trademark? (Part I)

That is the question.  Many business and service providers operate for years without considering whether they should trademark elements of their business.  The most common way people think of (and see) trademarks are through logos (think: New England Patriots or Apple Computers).* However, a company can also trademark a slogan it commonly uses, like, “Employment Wisdom on the Go” (or McDonalds’ “i’m lovin’ it” and Nike’s “Just Do It”).  A trademark can be almost anything: a word, logo, sound, shape, color, scent, or taste (or any combination of these) that distinguishes the goods or services of your business from another.

Either way, trademarking your company’s name, logo, slogan, or all of the above will protect it from being used by other entities.  One reason why a company might want to protect its logo, for example, is that it wouldn’t want consumers to be confused with another logo and accidentally go to another company (which may provide the same goods and services) instead of yours.  You surely don’t want to allow another company to benefit from any customer good-will you have worked hard to generate.  This is true even if your name, logo, or slogan has nothing to do with the industry in which you work.  For example, what does an apple have to do with trendy computers?  In a way, it makes even more sense to trademark your company’s name, logo and/or slogan if those three things are not necessarily indicative of the industry you’re in.

Here are some other benefits of registering:

  1. Can lead to higher sales.  Protecting your trademark is note a mere “cost of doing business.” It is more like an investment in customer goodwill and name recognition.
  2. Discourages others from using confusingly similar marks, which could harm your business.
  3. Protects your business if another business tries to register a confusingly similar mark.  If your mark is registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the office will prevent others from using your mark at no additional cost to you.
  4. Grants the right to use the ® symbol on the registered goods or service, putting competitors on notice that you are serious about protecting your rights.
  5. Grants you legal rights if someone interferes with or tries to use your mark.

For more information on the trademark process, please contact Jordan Payne Hay, Esq., Ted Small, Esq. or Bryan M. Dench, who work in intellectual property at ST&A.  Stay tuned for Part II: “If You Get a Trademark – Should It Be in Maine or Throughout the United States?”

*Do you think you can guess the 10 Most Valuable Trademarks according to Forbes?  See here.

This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of employment and corporate law.  Bryan Dench, Amy Dieterich, Jordan Payne Hay, and Rebecca Webber are employment and labor law attorneys; others at the firm handle business and other matters.  You can contact us at 207.784.3200.  Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals , companies, and municipalities throughout Maine.  It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.