When you're new to small business, sometimes the legal details can be overwhelming. When it comes to intellectual property, understanding the actual facts behind the many misconceptions may be difficult without the support of a commercial law attorney. Believing some of the misconceptions out there can actually prevent you from getting all of the protection that you should have. Here are a few important facts you should know about trademarks and your small business.
No Business is Too Small to Take Trademarks Seriously
Some small business owners mistakenly believe that intellectual property theft and infringement only happen to large corporations and big businesses. The truth is, small businesses can be targeted just as easily, and sometimes even easier. After all, most big corporations make every effort to prevent these things, but a small business owner who doesn't take trademark protection seriously is an easier target.
Domain Ownership Does Not Guarantee You a Trademark
Some business owners who lack experience with the internet may have a false belief that purchasing a domain name automatically grants a trademark. The truth is, registering a domain name has no connection at all to your trademark rights or ownership. It's just the registration of your company's online home. Instead, you have to apply for your trademark through the proper channels, and it must be used in conjunction with a registered product or service offering.
Your Trademark Must Be Unique
Although there is some grey area for similarities between trademarks that don't share an industry, your trademark needs to be unique. You cannot use a similar trademark to any other business (even if you sell something different) unless you can prove that there is no risk of customers confusing the two products or businesses. You'll want to talk with a corporate attorney about your product, brand and trademark ideas before you file to be sure that you're not infringing on another company's existing trademark.
You Need to be Precise About Your Trademark Markings
Don't make the mistake of using the wrong symbol after filing your trademark application. You cannot use the small "R" symbol on your trademarks until you've obtained confirmation of the federal trademark registration. Until you do, you'll have to stick with the "TM" symbol while your applications are pending. That is the symbol used to show that you're claiming common law trademark privileges.
With the information presented here, you'll have a better understanding of the expectations surrounding trademark law. The better informed you are, the easier it will be to protect your company's intellectual property. Talk with someone like FactorLaw for more help.