Most people have a vague understanding of the term “trademark.” As a business owner, you should have more than a general idea about trademark protection and infringement. While consulting a knowledgeable intellectual property lawyer is helpful when a trademark issue arises, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of trademark law so you can recognize when that law might be impacting your business.
What Can I Trademark?
A trademark serves to identify the source of particular goods or services. Trademarks are usually words, phrases, logos, or some combination of these elements. They might even include a specific color that is identified with your brand or the way your product is designed, though those types of trademarks can be harder to secure.
Essentially, trademarks help consumers identify and distinguish a particular product or service as different from other businesses’ offerings. That means they have to have some level of distinctness — in legalese, they need to have a “secondary meaning” that prompts consumers to connect your mark to your business or its products. So the broader the word, phrase, or logo, the harder it is to obtain and protect a trademark. Generic terms, like a bakery called “Bakery,” are almost impossible to get trademarked because they just refer directly to the service or goods provided.
Do I Need to Register a Trademark?
Although officially registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) isn’t legally required, doing so provides you with strong legal advantages if another party attempts to use your trademark without your permission. Should this occur, you can use your registered trademark to enforce your ownership rights. Additionally, once registered, your trademark will appear in searchable databases and put everyone on notice that your mark is already in use.
When Do I Need the Help of a Minnesota Trademark Attorney?
Many Minnesota business owners can search and register a trademark on their own. However, there are circumstances in which enlisting the guidance of a trusted IP attorney may be beneficial. For example, if you suspect that another party is using your trademark or has created a trademark that’s too similar to yours, you may be able to take legal action against them. If customers could mistake your goods and services for those of another business because of confusingly similar words, phrases, or logos, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options for defending your trademark against infringement. Likewise, if you are worried a trademark you want to use might infringe on someone else’s mark — or if you’ve been accused of infringing — it’s a good idea to consult an IP attorney.
To learn more about trademark protection in Minneapolis and St. Paul, reach out to Rubric Legal LLC today at (612) 465-0074 to speak with a friendly and knowledgeable IP law attorney.