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Trademark Protection for the Entrepreneur

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.  A service mark is basically the same thing, except it distinguishes the services provided by one party rather than physical goods.   Trademarks protect what we typically think of as brand names or logos.

The United State Patents and Trademark Office handles the registration of trademarks.   It is not required to register a trademark with the USPTO and you may be able to establish ownership rights simply based on using a trademark on products and services in the market.  However, officially registering your trademark certainly affords a business owner with a level of legal protection and presumption of ownership of the mark.  For business owners, registering a trademark can be one of the most important branding decisions you will make.  A trademark will represent your company’s image and serve as a symbol to the public.  If you are running a business that provides quality products or services, you will want to use your trademark as a “stamp of approval” by your business on everything you put out into the market.

In the legal world, it’s commonly said that a trademark is only as good as your protection of it.  This refers to, among other things, monitoring your industry, issuing cease and desist letters, filing trademark oppositions and/or litigation in the defense of your trademark.  It is often difficult for trademark registrants to understand that it is not the USPTO’s responsibility to enforce trademark rights or bring legal action against infringers.  It is the trademark owner’s responsibility alone to protect their trademark and ensure that no one else is using it, or attempting to trademark something “confusingly similar.”  When a trademark holder finds someone who is infringing on their trademark rights, they have several options.  The first step might be a “cease and desist” letter which demands the infringer stops using the trademark.  If the infringer is attempting to register the potentially infringing trademark with the USPTO, an “opposition” can be filed with the USPTO.  In some cases, a trademark holder may file a lawsuit for trademark infringement.

For more information regarding starting your own business, please contact Richardson “Red” Griswold of Griswold Law at (858) 481-1300 or rgriswold@griswoldlawsandiego.com.

Be sure to check out the complete list of  articles involving trademark law!

 

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