Running a small business means sometimes finding yourself swimming with bigger sharks. It also means your competition can be much higher, primarily if you operate in a big city. While not every small business can afford the defense they deserve, the consequences of losing your assets necessitate the consideration of trademark protection. Any business, big or small, has the right to protect itself and ensure its chances of success.
As defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark protects any “word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” This includes intellectual properties such as your business name, slogans, logos, and anything else that makes your services and products unique. Of course, a trademark attorney can help you learn more about registering, as well as researching any current usage of trademarks.
What to Know First
Hiring a trademark attorney in Philadelphia is likely your best bet if you’re a small business looking for protection. But there are some critical aspects worth knowing first before you discover too late that you’ve run afoul of legal matters.
- If you run social media sites or operate a website, secure these as well.
- Know the trademark limits on business names, because anything too descriptive or too generic is subject to disqualification.
- Don’t rely on common law to protect your intellectual property.
- A USPTO domain search is only the first step and isn’t your safest bet in the long run.
- Even if your brand includes your given name, it still needs a trademark.
- Trademarks cover goods and services; a trademark lawyer can help clearly define these in writing.
- Use the symbol for everything applicable, and not in any other way.
- Monitor, enforce, and continue use of your trademark. They require renewals over time, and trademark infringement does happen.
How to Register
Checking the USPTO database is a good starting point to see if what you intend to trademark is already in use. You can always fill out the online form to submit to the USPTO but don’t set yourself up for disaster because you misunderstood something. After all, if the trademark you want is too much like another trademark already registered, your registration could be contested.
If you apply online, costs can vary between $275 and $325. You’ll be required to provide information regarding what categories your goods and services fall under, the mark’s intended use, the mark’s first date of use for commercial purposes, and whether you want to include any design component. It takes roughly six months from the filing date to receive a response.
When registering intellectual property, it would serve many scenarios sensibly to consult with a trademark attorney in Philadelphia before going it your own.