Businesses need to be able to stand up for their rights, assets and products/services frequently in order to remain successful for a long time. A large part of this is the registration and enforcement of intellectual property. Intellectual property refers to intangible “creations of the mind” – this can be a creative work, a logo, a slogan, a concept of an invention, sound recordings, or a proprietary system that allows the business to deliver its product or service.
The purpose of owning intellectual property is to be able to prevent competitors from stealing what makes your business unique, and hence, diverting profits away from you. Fortunately, in most countries, there are strong government protection programs that help small businesses to maintain a stronghold over their intellectual property, so they are well-positioned to defend themselves in court against a violator of their intellectual property rights.
Businesses who have successfully protected their trademarks, patents and/or copyrights have relied on the legal representation of an IP lawyer. Intellectual property law does not have to be strictly limited to copyright violation litigation; in fact, a well-equipped IP law firm can assist in the registration and maintenance of trademarks with a government body for the ultimate protection.
Registration may sound easy enough that one may ask, why retain a lawyer to do so? When you try to do it yourself, the answer actually becomes obvious. You want to make sure that your trademark (logo or phrase identifying your brand, product or service), patent or copyright is not so similar to something else registered that’s pre-existing. Often, if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office determines that your IP is likely to be confused for someone else’s IP, they will reject the application.
A trademark lawyer, patent lawyer or copyright lawyer will take care of that challenging work for you. They will handle the responsibility of searching for any similar trademark or patent registrations, since often a business owner may find it cumbersome to do it on their own.
Once you have registered your trademark or service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office you should designate the registered mark with the ® symbol. When a trademark qualifies for protection, the attached rights are protected when the mark is used in commerce or if the party was the first to register the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Successfully registering a trademark at the federal level, for instance, may not ensure that you own all of the rights to the trademark.
A trademark does not necessarily need to be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the owner of the trademark to enforce his trademark rights. However, businesses conducting interstate commerce may find a federal trademark more useful than a state registered mark, as federal registration allows them to protect their trademark in any state their business operates in.
Once you begin using your trademark commercially, you should consider seeking further legal protection through trademark ownership. A trademark attorney can advise regarding both Common Law trademark rights and registered rights for you and your company.
A mark has acquired secondary meaning when the mark makes people think of a specific company rather than the service or product it describes. To entitle your descriptive mark to trademark protection, you must show that it acquired secondary meaning. A mark will be deemed to have acquired secondary meaning if the evidence demonstrates that the mark has come to be associated with a particular product, service, or company. The trademark must be distinctive for the goods and services that you provide, not be deceptive, illegal or immoral and not be similar to existing trademarks.
There may be additional trademark filing options for you if you have a foreign trademark registration or pending foreign trademark application. A successful trademark registration can take up to a year. You must check the status of your application at least every 3-6 months after the initial filing of the application, because otherwise you may miss a filing deadline. An IP attorney Houston can provide you with tips on how to stay on schedule with your trademark filing.