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Trademarks, Explained (in Just Two Minutes)

A crash course in this all-important intellectual property asset.

As a business owner, you’ve probably heard the word “trademark” tossed around. But if you’re like most business owners, you’re still not clear on the difference between a trademark, a patent, and a copyright - and whether you need any, or all of the above.

If this is you, read on. This blog post covers business owners’ three top questions about trademarks in just two minutes (start your watches…).

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is one of the four main types of intellectual property (the other three are patents, copyrights, and trade secrets). A trademark can be a word, slogan, logo, jingle, or even special designs like packaging or the particular layout of a commercial space. While there are many options, the most important trademarks are usually the business name and logo.

Think of a trademark as the #1 way that customers know you. It’s the name that they remember and the logo that they look for.

Why Do Companies Need Trademarks?

Trademarks protect companies from competitors, counterfeiters, and copycats. Successful companies spend years building a good reputation and goodwill with their customers. Without trademark law, any competitor could take advantage of what you’ve built by copying your name and logo. They could also set up similar websites, store fronts, and social media accounts to distract from your brand and funnel your clients to themselves. In short, without trademark law, it would be impossible to exert any real ownership over your company’s brand and reputation.

How Can a Business Get a Trademark?

So if trademarks are so important, how can your company get one?

Technically, once a business starts using a name or a logo, a trademark comes into existence. However, there is a difference between using a trademark and owning a trademark.

In order to establish exclusive, nationwide ownership of a trademark, businesses must register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Only companies who have registered with the USPTO are allowed to use the ® registration symbol next to their trademark. Without this government registration, the most a company can claim are “common law” trademark rights, which are difficult to actually enforce. Securing a trademark registration with the USPTO is a lengthy journey, (read: minimum of one year), but a skilled trademark attorney can help your company successfully navigate the process.

So there you have it: trademark law in two minutes. Hopefully this blog post has gone a long way in helping you understand this all-important intellectual property asset.

Thanks for reading the Bevel Law Blog! While this information is hopefully helpful to you, nothing in this blog is intended to be legal advice. Always consult a lawyer before making any legal decisions based on topics in this blog.

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