Trademarks can become extremely valuable. For example, Amazon, Apple and Google are each currently valued at well over $300 billion. So, the small cost to register them is money well spent.
The internet is replete with prudent legal advice about why companies should protect their valuable brands through trademark registration in every relevant country. However, there isn’t very much information about the kinds of preliminary “self-awareness” branding factors which an entrepreneur or start-up business should consider in relation to trademark registration needs.
Over my 25 years as a trademark agent, I have observed that the following five topics are typically the big “tip-offs” or “red flags” that a business owner recognizes as a trigger, justification or impetus for proceeding with a trademark registration application.
You have significantly invested in your brand, whether through your own creative development work or through a professional graphic designer, and you don’t want to waste that financial investment. Just like investing in property insurance or building security, it becomes readily apparent to you that it’s wise to get trademark protection right from the get-go.
Your brand reflects who you are or strive to be in the marketplace, so you take great pride in the word or logo that represents you and your business to the outside world. You may have received unsolicited compliments or positive feedback about your wordmark, slogan or logo. So, leaving economics aside, your business pride would be injured if someone imitated your brand or tried to depreciate its accrued goodwill. Trademark protection becomes a common-sense solution to a potential emotionally loaded issue.
Your brand is very likely unique and artistically original. Perhaps you invented a new catchy word, tapped into an emerging neologism or created a beautiful visual design. You now realize that it may become tempting for online rogues to ride your unique and original branding coattails with copycat imitations of your wordmark or logo. They are less likely to get away with it if your trademark is registered.
Your brand may be discussed in the news, displayed for a major event sponsorship or the subject of a magazine or newspaper review. Whether it’s free publicity or paid advertising, the public is becoming exposed and aware of your brand. As awareness grows beyond your current geographic market, it becomes more legally difficult to rely solely on the common law of passing off to protect your brand from trolls and imitators. Again, there comes a time in your business growth when you realize trademark protection is the smart and prudent course of action.
Your competitors are watching you. Your brand distinguishes your products and/or services from theirs. Competitors might try to plant seeds of confusion among your customers by coming very close to your wordmark, slogan or logo with their branding and promotional materials. They might even try to disparage your brand or brazenly advertise their products and/or services are superior or less expensive than yours. You know that at some point there might be litigation arising from these competitive scuffles and you want to be ready with the “sword & shield” that trademark registration provides your business under federal legislation.
There is usually some random event which occurs or a light bulb that goes off with a small or medium-sized business that leads the way to brand protection and trademark registration. The five wake-up calls discussed here are not exhaustive, but they are typically the moment in your business life cycle when the advantages and benefits of trademark registration become an obvious necessity instead of a perceived luxury that can be put off to the future.
If you would like more information about Trademarks, please contact our Trademark Agent Marc Belliveau.