Ever heard that you don’t actually have to register a trademark? Perhaps you believe you only have to “use” your trademark in business to have “a right to it.” That’s true to some extent – but beware!
Trademarks are obviously an important aspect of branding and marketing an business. They are particularly important for start-ups. One of the key things investors look for is whether a new company has properly secured its trademark rights.
Before investing in a business name, symbol, type of packaging, or any other distinctive representation of your business, it’s worth paying to conduct a trademark search. The consequences of discovering too late that someone else is already using your idea are serious. Unauthorized use of a trademark can result in a lawsuit, meaning high legal fees, and the results can include destruction of all marketing materials and merchandise, and/or the requirement that a new market plan be initiated.
Recently, a Massachusetts company called Chocolate Therapy discovered this too late, and was forced to rebrand its entire business. The company ended up holding a contest to rename the store (with the winner getting a box of chocolates).
Consider investing in a federal trademark registration. Again, this isn’t absolutely necessary, but it provides significant advantages. It allows the trademark user to claim the trademark nationwide (as opposed to just in the places where business is conducted), and certainly provides a leg up in the event of a court dispute!
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