One of the hardest decisions some of our clients make is choosing their agency’s name. Once you’ve established your brand, whether it is signified with a single word, a logo, or your agency’s full name, you want to protect its value. You don’t want competitors to accidentally use the same name and confuse your customers. And worse, you really don’t want someone purposefully trading on your established name to get (what should be your) business.
Understanding Trademarks for your Agency
Before we dig into the benefits of federal registration, it is important to know that you have common law rights in your name and logo from the moment you start using them in commerce. You have these whether or not you pursue a federal trademark.
While common law trademark rights are not nearly as protective as a federally registered trademark, you still have some protections. A common law trademark allows you to enforce your trademark against infringers in the geographic areas where you have established your common law rights. This means if someone is using the same name as you, for the same services and in the same area where you conduct business, then you have the legal right to make them stop (assuming you used the name first). You have these common law rights without any application fees or forms.
Now, on to what a federal trademark will do for you.
What Do Agencies Gain by Registering Their Brand?
Registering your brand as a federal trademark will provide you with a host of protections. We’ve broken them down for you:
1. Nationwide Exclusive Rights
A federally registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants you exclusive rights to use your brand name or logo in connection with the goods or services you provide across the US.
This is a competitive advantage as it distinguishes your brand from others in the same market. This means you can prevent others from using a similar mark in connection with similar goods or services throughout the entire country.
2. Brand Recognition
Once your brand is registered, it can enhance recognition and consumer trust. It helps build your brand’s reputation and loyalty by signaling authenticity and quality to your customers. In this way, a federally registered trademark protects your agency as much as it does your customers.
3. Use of the ® Symbol
Once your trademark is federally registered, you can use the ® next to your trademark. This symbol indicates that your mark is both protected *and* registered. This puts the public on notice that it is your trademark and yours alone.
4. Presumption of Ownership and Validity
Federal registration creates a legal presumption of your ownership of the trademark and its validity. This presumption can be crucial in legal disputes, as it shifts the burden of proof to the party challenging your rights. Basically, it puts you in the most favorable position should an infringement case arise.
5. Public Notice and Deterrence
Registration puts others on notice of your trademark ownership. Part of the federal trademark application process includes publishing the application in the USPTO’s official Gazette so it is publicly accessible. This public notice can deter potential infringers from using a similar mark (and help avoid costly legal battles).
6. Enhanced Remedies and Damages
Federal registration provides stronger legal remedies and damages than a common law trademark. If someone infringes on your federally registered trademark, you may be entitled to statutory damages, attorney fees, and the possibility of recovering profits made by the company that infringed your trademark.
7. Sale of Your Agency
If you are considering selling your agency in the future, having a federally registered trademark for your brand increases your assets. Any potential buyer will want to know that you have the nationwide right to use the name, along with the protections that go with it. They don’t want to end up in an infringement lawsuit later down the line.
8. Ability to License and Expand
In some instances, it may make sense to license your trademark to others, allowing you to generate additional revenue streams. Those users will want to know you have a federal registered mark before they agree to use it.
A quick side note here: if you allow someone to use your trademark, you need to be careful and make sure the licensor abides by your trademark use guidelines (Matchstick can help you put those in place).
9. Stronger Grounds for International Protections
If you plan to expand your business internationally, a federally registered trademark can serve as a strong foundation for obtaining protection in foreign countries through treaties and agreements.
Monitor Your Registered Trademark with Matchstick
To sum up, a federally registered trademark provides nationwide protection, legal presumptions, public notice, enhanced remedies, and numerous opportunities for business growth and expansion. It is a valuable asset that helps safeguard your brand and establish a strong presence in the marketplace.
But wait, there’s more… We also have a new service available to monitor trademark applications and registrations. Our Trademark Monitor service actively identifies infringement instead of finding out about infringement passively. Also, monitoring your trademark helps prevent dilution and provides visibility into market activity, trends, and even your competitors’ filings. Trademark Monitor reviews newly filed USPTO trademark applications that are likely conflicting with your word only USPTO trademark matters (this subscription does not include design monitoring.)
Reach out to Matchstick if you want to talk about trademarking your brand or setting up Trademark Monitor if you already have your federal registration in place.