If you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner, then you may have already heard of trademarks; you may even have a general idea of what they are. Just so it’s clear, trademarks (TMs) are words that distinguish one organization from the rest in its niche.
Granted, that may seem like a vague or complicated concept. However, once you gather more information about the topic, then you’ll realize that acquiring a trademark for your business is a lot simpler than it looks, especially if you can call on the help of skilled trademark attorneys.
Here are facts about trademarks that you might not have known:
1. They have Roman roots
One of the first known uses of trademarks was during the Roman empire. Swordsmiths would finish making swords by branding them with their own distinguishable marks. This principle of marking a product to establish its maker was first legislated during the reign of King Henry III in the Parliament of England. He specifically required bakers to identify and use trademarks in the bread that they sold.
2. You can trademark more than just words
Trademarking isn’t limited to words and catchphrases alone. You could also actually trademark symbols, designs, and jingles, as well as combinations of text and visual elements. As long as people recognize your company and brand when they see or read something on your product, then you could most likely trademark it. For instance, did you know that Coca-Cola had the iconic curvy shape of their soda bottles trademarked?
Take note that trademarks only represent products. If you want to legally register a service, then you’re looking to secure a service mark. The main difference between the two is that the former is usually seen directly on the product or its packaging, while the latter is displayed on advertisements for the service.
3. You can’t trademark descriptive phrases
Imagine if a company were to trademark the phrase “social media platform.” Then, among websites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, there could only be one that can use this phrase. Trademarking descriptive phrases is not allowed because it would violate the right of competitor companies to conduct business in that same field. The same goes for geographical origins of materials or ingredients.
For this reason, it’s much better to come up with a unique phrase or logo that would fully encapsulate why your target market should choose your company even though there’s fierce competition within your field.
4. Forming a business entity is not the same as getting a trademark
While your local state or city may disallow other organizations from using your business name, this protection does not extend to the other aspects of your company, like your logo and tagline. So, be sure to take the necessary measures to secure your company’s distinguishing branding components.
5. A trademark is different from a copyright and a patent
Here are quick and simple definitions to help you distinguish between the three:
- Trademark – This uniquely represents one company or brand.
- Copyright – This legally protects an original piece of art or written work.
- Patent – This legally protects an invention.
A legitimate agency should handle applications for these three. In the United States, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is authorized to oversee these application processes.
6. Your TM application could be rejected
Don’t get too excited if you’re looking to trademark something for your company since there’s a chance that it might get rejected. Rejections happen mainly when a different company has already trademarked the phrase or logo that you have in mind.
This is why it’s wise to conduct some trademark research to see which phrases or logos are already taken. You wouldn’t want to go through all the trouble of designing and reproducing an idea that you ultimately can’t run with.
7. TMs are national rights
Essentially, this means that a trademark you obtain in one country is only good for that particular country. You could, however, extend your trademarks internationally. If you intend to take your trademark overseas, it’s best to file all the necessary paperwork for your international application six months within your local trademark application. This ensures that you get priority and that you can rest easy knowing that your trademark really is locally effective.
Applying for trademarks is a sensible move if you’re thinking of establishing a business or if you already have one. Although there is a largely legal component about securing a trademark for your company, hopefully these facts were able to somewhat simplify the process, together with its underlying benefits, for you.