Common mistakes businesses make with trademarks

If your business is all about its brand and reputation, trademarks can be an important way to protect the brand of your business. If you want to protect your brand here are some of the most common mistakes businesses make with their trademarks.

1) Assuming that using a mark first protects your rights to the mark. 

  • There are some protections given by the Lanham Act to companies that use a mark first in business. However, the type of protection this provides is limited to your geographic location may not be enough to protect your brand or prevent others from using your mark. Only registered trademarks provide full protection for your brand.

2) Trying to trademark a copyright (creative work). 

  • Only a copyright can protect creative works such as books, movies, songs, or visual art. You can't trademark a creative work.

3) Applying for a trademark instead of a patent. 

  • The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) handles both trademarks and patents, but trademarks protect brands and patents protect inventions (e.g. devices, business methods, and industrial processes). You can't trademark an invention.

4) Attempting to trademark an idea. 

  • You can't do much with an idea. You have to turn your idea into something. Once you have turned your idea into an invention, you may be able to patent it. If you turn the idea into a work of art, you may be able to copyright it. If you turn the idea into a brand you may be able to trademark it.

5) Confusing a trademark with a business registration. 

  • You should register your business with your state's secretary of state. This registration protects your business name in your state only and is not a trademark you can use to protect your brand.

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