The Ten Commandments Of Trademark Protection

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As a business owner or an entrepreneur with a new product, choosing and defending your trademark is one of the most basic ways to gain recognition in the consumer world. Trademark protection should be a top priority, because if your trademark is confusing, stolen, or misused, it reflects badly on your product and can mislead your intended consumer base. Here are the "Ten Commandments" of establishing a firm, protected trademark for your business. 

1. Thou shalt choose a trademark that has great strength.

A strong trademark will be more easy to protect legally. Try to avoid using generic words, phrases, or images for your trademark. Unique, focused, and specific trademarks inherently have better legal legs to stand on. For example, if you are starting a music shop, you couldn't trademark "Adam's Music Shop" as a business name. Instead, you might choose a name like "Macaroni Music" and have a particular font and color for "Macaroni" as your trademark name. 

2. Thou shalt know the difference between fanciful and arbitrary trademarks.

Fanciful and arbitrary trademarks often have the strongest legal protection. Arbitrary trademarks take regular words and assign them to a completely different product or business. For example, Motorolla named a phone the "Razor." Fanciful trademarks are words that are entirely made up. Kleenex and Verizon are examples are fanciful trademarks. These are the easiest to protect because they are the least likely to be too generic. 

3. Thou shalt check to make sure a trademark is not already in use.

One you've developed the perfect name or promotional mark for your business, you should check with an intellectual property attorney to make sure you aren't accidentally infringing on a trademark that is already registered. If you discover that it is a "free" name, register it as soon as possible for the best chances of preventing another business from using it and claiming ti as their own. 

4. Thou shalt use your trademark with great frequency.

Using a trademark with frequency increases your legal credibility as the owner of the trademark.

5. Thou shalt display the sign of your trademark as often as possible.

Visual recognition is half the battle when it comes to protecting trademarks. Even if you use your trademark a lot when speaking or writing contracts, visual display on letterheads and other official publications is essential. 

6. Thou shalt include trademark language on company packaging and websites.

Even though it can be expensive to brand everything, the more items that are printed with your trademark, the more widespread public acceptance of that trademark will become. Packing is especially important because it helps the effect of your branding to spread to other design aspects of your business, such as a specific bag color or box shape. Your mark will become easier to police. 

7. Thou shalt try to avoid becoming a generic household word.

Some trademarks are so popular and recognizable that they replace the original noun of the items. For example, many people refer to tissues as "Kleenex" or to gelatin dessert as "Jell-O."  Often, when a brand becomes a verb or a noun replacing the thing itself, it is much more difficult to protect. You can avoid this by always speaking of your brand properly. 

8. Thou shalt not ignore blatant similarities to your trademark in other companies' promotions.

Catch and discourage even sight similarities early, before imitation becomes entrenched. It is more difficult to fight trademark infringement that has been occurring for a long time. 

9. Thou shalt not confuse consumers with trademark similarities.

Names that sound like other names or symbols that look similar to other symbols can lead to consumer confusion. If you are ever in a brand turf war, having singular consumer recognition is a key part of defending your trademark. 

10. Thou shalt hire an intellectual property attorney to defend your trademark. 

Contact an attorney in your area for specific information on registering and defending your brand. Go to websites for attorneys in your area to find one that works for you.