Is your company unique and distinguished from its peers? Hopefully. But if you use a symbol, word, image, design, phrase, or any combination of these, to illustrate how distinguished you are… there might be a price you’ll have to pay. Luckily, whether or not you buy trademark rights is entirely up to you: you’re not required to do so. So what do you do?
The benefits of a trademark are pretty obvious: your company’s unique identity is easily communicated to the public and no one can capitalize on it but those who are authorized to. However, what about the costs? If trademarks can be easily used without official federal registration, why bother to spend the money and time to go through the trademarking process?
Indeed, through actual use, you may already have a trademark or you may be able to develop a trademark without ever having to deal with the US Patent Office. So why take that extra step toward making your trademark more legitimate? Well, in addition to forcing you to compare your trademarks to others and perhaps discover you are actually infringing on a trademark that’s already in existence, registering your trademark means that you will have a lot more power in court. In other words, if there is unauthorized use of your service mark, it will be handled by the law and likely in your favor. The more popular and commercial your product or service, the more advisable it is you register your trademark.
Intellectual property isn’t always cheap however. As a result, it’s important you have someone on your side who knows all about trademarks and essentially can help you buy your trademark rights. There are attorneys who specialize in patents and during this process, they will be great friends to you. The US Patent Office, too, has a lot of great resources for people just like you. Just visit its website and you can read a bunch of literature on the topic!
The free trademark is the kind that establishes itself based simply on your use of it. However, this isn’t easily protected. However, to get more protection and perhaps peace of mind, you could spend up to a few thousand dollars on formal trademark rights. As well, any company that takes its trademark seriously, whatever it is, will have to also anticipate the legal fees required to defend it.
Another tip for trademark-seekers: your trademark rights might be only at the local level or they may be nationwide. This is extremely important and will of course affect how much money you spend. There is another expense, too: searching for other trademarks that may resemble yours. Too often, this step isn’t taken and there are severe consequences later.
If you’re not yet ready to legitimize your trademark by registering it, you can still lay claim to it by making it with “TM” (which stands for trademark). Trademarks are all around us, whether registered or unregistered. So make sure that you remember this as you consider the costs of trademark rights.