For any entrepreneur starting a startup or a business online, how to trademark a business name, brand, and copyright a logo are some of the first concerns to face.
If you own a business, you certainly have a brand name and a logo. These are the visual representations of your product or service and helps customers differentiate your brand from all others in the market.
As you may know, your brand name and the logo should primarily reflect the purpose of your business. It should contain something that is peculiarly related to your business, such as a whisk for a bakery.
However, many businesses are now coming up with more unique brand names and logos – but each of them includes a portion of their brand personality.
Since the brand name and logo are both so important for a business – you need to protect their rights. Trademark and copyright are two ways that you can protect your brand name or logo from being used or copied by other people, and I am here to guide you through the entire process.
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This is a question that many people ask. Small business owners or startups are particularly concerned about whether or not they would have to invest funds into trademarks and copyrights for their brand. Here is the simple answer: no, it is not necessary to actually register for a trademark and copyright.
If you are based in the US, then your logo already has a copyright as soon as you publish the artwork, and your brand name has a trademark as soon as you use it for marketing purposes such as on a board in front of your outlet.
So why do people actually take the extra step of registering for a trademark and a copyright? Well, that is because the official registration is what protects your brand name and logo from being stolen by other individuals or companies.
Once you register for a trademark on your business name or brand, you will have exclusive rights to that name and no other business will be able to use it. In case they do, you will have the power to sue them legally.
To break it down for you, here is why it is important to register for a trademark and a copyright:
Yes. Every startup should invest some funds into registering their brand name and logo because it certainly helps them in the future.
Once you trademark your brand, customers begin to associate your product or service with your name and logo. This creates brand recognition. In order to avoid other people from stealing your idea and setting up their own shops under the same brand name, it is absolutely essential for startups with creative ideas to trademark their company.
Apart from customers, a trademark and copyright registration also help startups gain a positive reputation and result in a lower labor turnover. More people will be interested in working at the new company since employees would know that the owners are serious in developing and growing the business in the future.
When startups apply for a business loan for expansion, it is crucial to have a trademark and copyright that the company can show to potential investors.
Having a trademark and copyright will help startups in the future as it allows them to avoid any legal confrontations or issues.
For example, if you start a bakery business under the name “Cakery Bakery” but do not trademark it, another person could set up a similar shop with the same name. If the other party chooses to get the brand name trademarked, they will have the legal right to force you to alter your brand name, slogan, logo, marketing material, etc. To avoid such a hassle, it is highly recommended for startups to trademark their companies as soon as they set up.
One of the biggest confusion amongst business owners is whether to get a registered trademark, copyright, or both. To clear this confusion, you must understand both of these terms individually.
A trademark is a word, phrase, or design used by a seller to differentiate himself from others in the same industry of business. By this definition, you can easily infer that you can register a trademark for your brand name, slogan, and logo.
These three aspects form the identity of your business and represent the product or service that you provide – hence, trademarking them is essential for the future success of your company.
However, you cannot trademark your entire logo including the color or specific design. This means that a trademark will not protect your brand logo from being used by other businesses in the future.
Another important aspect to remember is that you must register your trademark in order to enjoy the benefit of sole ownership. Once you have official registration, you can provide proof that you were the first person to come up with your brand name and slogan – meaning that you can file a lawsuit against anybody who tries to use or copy it.
A copyright is typically used to protect creative work such as books, songs, movies, or any form of artwork (digital or printed). Companies have the freedom to copyright any original material that they create, including audio, video, reports, and most importantly, their brand logo.
In order to avoid legal disputes in the future, a company is recommended to copyright the design of their logo and any other original artwork at the time of setup. This provides them with documented proof of ownership – meaning that no other individual or business can use the same or a similar logo.
Once you have understood the key differences between a trademark and copyright, you must know that it is necessary for your business to have both of these registered for the brand name and logo.
If you are concerned that the process would be lengthy and complicated, I have some great news for you. The entire process of filing for a copyright or a trademark has been digitized – meaning that it is remarkably simple for you to register for them.
Below are the steps to apply for a copyright:
An important note to remember is that your copyright registration will legally begin from the date that it gets approved, not the date that you applied for it. This is to ensure that you are applying for copyright on original work and that similar artwork has not been copyrighted before.
There are similar steps to follow if you want to apply for a trademark for your brand name or logo. Here are the steps you can follow:
The process of getting a trademark registration is a little more complicated than copyright. This is mainly because you need to provide a range of documents when you apply for the trademark, including:
Once you receive your trademark, the work is not entirely done. You are legally required to maintain your registration to ensure that the trademark remains in commercial use as long as it is registered under your name.
Although the trademark registration will last for the next 10 years, you will have to file maintenance documents on a regular basis such as during the fifth and sixth year as well as the ninth and tenth year.
If you fail to keep your registration up to date, it may either be canceled or expired by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Once business owners hear that getting a trademark for their company could be a complicated legal process, they instantly turn towards getting an attorney. However, you do not necessarily need to hire legal assistance in order to get the process done or to enforce your legal rights in the future.
As far as the filing process is concerned, hiring an attorney would be a waste of money since the entire application is web-based and only requires you to have a few important documents relating to your brand name and logo.
If you wish to enforce your legal rights in the future, it may be helpful to hire an attorney or a company that is on the lookout for businesses that may be operating under your trademarked brand name or logo.
These companies lookout for trademark infringement and are able to guide you through the entire process of seeking legal protection and filing a lawsuit.
After understanding the process of applying for a trademark and copyright, I hope that you are motivated to fill the application form for your business immediately.
Both of these forms of legal protection helps maintain a unique brand identity for your business and have a multitude of legal benefits for the future growth of your business.
So, if you want to create a unique identity for your business, I suggest that you invest in trademarking and copyrighting your brand name and logo immediately.
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