Before we dive into the content, a little disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I’m a graphic designer! All the information I will share comes from years of experience working with clients and trademark lawyers. We would recommend that you crosscheck any information with a lawyer.
Should you trademark or copyright your brand? Let me ask you this, if you saw someone using your name or a logo that you had created and invested in, would that bother you? If the answer is yes, then you probably should trademark your company name. We highly recommend to our clients (especially those looking to be a national brand) that they should trademark their company name.
What’s the difference between a trademark and a copyright?
A trademark is for the company name you’re using, for example: “Nine Spoons Soup”. Copyright is the actual logo (brand identity) itself. We recommend you do both! But at an absolute minimum, registering the trademark for your company name is a great first step.
Why should I register for a trademark?
Why should you invest the money in the time and the hassle? Right? There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, this is to protect your investment. You’ve invested a lot into your company (or you will if you want to be a national brand). Think of a trademark as insurance for the future to protect that investment! If you invest in signage and materials, business cards, and environmental design all around an unprotected company name, you run the risk of potentially getting a cease and desist letter from another company that did register that name! You will then have to change all those projects you invested in, which could cost you thousands of dollars. So think of a trademark as an insurance policy, it’s a small investment up front so you don’t have to worry about a competitor taking your name or branding later on.
Another really great perk of registering your company name for a trademark is that if you eventually want to sell your company, the buyer will most likely want you to have a trademark registration in place. It’s another piece of value your company can bring to ensure you did everything right on the front end. When investors evaluate your company, it could affect how much they might buy your company for. If that trademark isn’t in place; it’s an added liability for them!
See If Your Company Name Is Already Registered.
So we highly recommend that if you aren’t sure if you have your brand trademarked or not, look it up on the USPTO website. Another option to look up a trademark registration is trademarkclear.com. It’s a bit more user-friendly! All you need to do is enter the name of your company and the type of class that it is. Not sure what a class is? So the class is the type of good or service you are selling? For example, Nine Spoon Soup sells a frozen soup product, which would be filed under “class 29: soups”. If you want to sell other types of products in the future, you can always file under additional classes, but this is where it would be helpful to bring in a lawyer to advise you. The goal of looking up registrations before you finalize your company name is to see if there is anyone else in your category with a name similar to yours.
Hire a lawyer, do it right!
You can register your trademark yourself, but we highly recommend that you hire a lawyer to advise you. It can be tricky filing for all the different classes. For example, if you just sell one product now but you want to sell different types of products in the future. Or if you see another company that has a name close to what your name is, a lawyer helps you to figure out if it’s worth attempting to register the name.
For example, if there was a “Nine Forks Soup Co” already registered a lawyer can assess the potential risk of filing or not. A trademark lawyer will look at each registration and assess if it could be a bigger issue down the line. We are big believers in hiring experts to help support your business, and trademark lawyers are experts in their space.