Choosing a common or trendy name for your startup opens your company to risk. You might like the name “Company XYZ,” and you might think you’re the “Company XYZ” of your field, but “Company XYZ” might disagree with you. If you are looking to choose a brand or product name, you need to think about trademarks earlier than you think.
When you have your new name picked out, some of the first steps you might take are to register a domain name and pay to have someone build a website. You’re likely starting social media accounts and using the name at trade shows, investor meetings, and during pitches. If you haven’t done diligence on that name, what you are also doing is setting yourself up for trademark infringement. Besides the legal issues presented with trademark infringement, you are also weakening your brand equity and spending funds on websites and marketing materials you’ll soon need to change. Those funds would have been better spent protecting your brand with trademark searches and registrations.
When you’re deciding what to name your company or product, you’ll want to take several steps.
1. Select a Strong Potential Trademark
Many people fail to select a strong name or logo for their brand. The more generic a name or design is, the more likely your mark will be weak. Some of the ways to avoid a weak mark are to choose arbitrary or fanciful names with a unique word or design that are typically not associated with the goods or services you provide.
2. Search/Clear Your Mark
You should perform a search before using brand information to be sure you aren’t conflicting with other registered or unregistered trademarks that could cause confusion and to ensure you aren’t using overly generic branding. The best times to search are when you name your business, design any logos, name any products, or use slogans.
3. Register Your Mark
You likely will want to register your trademark via a trademark application. Generally you want your brand to be distinctive and with no likelihood of confusion. There are exceptions to these rules that an attorney can discuss with you. Once you receive a trademark, it’s also important to docket trademark actions. You must continue to prove that you are still using the mark and document and renew accordingly. This issue is also one which a trademark attorney may help you.
Many people think once their corporation is registered, they have the full legal rights to use that brand and are protected from other people attempting to use that brand. Without separate trademark protections, you haven’t properly protected your brand. You also must enforce your brand if someone infringes on it. Failure to do so could actually result in you losing the very protections you filed for.
It’s important to protect your brand early to save your business money long-term. For additional questions about filing and enforcement, please contact Myers Dill.