Brand names and trademarks are valuable assets to a business. Often a brand or trademark becomes synonymous with the product. For example Xerox (R) is often used to mean copy. Because of this, many companies want to protect their brands from others who may try to copy or misrepresent the name.
A brand name identifies a specific product or name of a company. When a brand name is doing its job, it evokes positive images or emotions in consumers, which is why brand can be so valuable. And in some cases, the brand name becomes part of the everyday vernacular such as Kleenex (R) to mean tissue. Because of a brand name’s importance, many companies want to protect it through trademark.
A trademark is a registered brand or trade name. It can include any combination of a name, slogan, logo, sounds or colors that identify the company or its products or services. For example, the Nike Swoosh is a registered trademark.
The Goals of Brand Names and Trademarks
The goal of a brand name is to provide an easy way to recognize and remember the name that evokes a positive response in consumers. For example, many shoppers prefer to buy “brand name” products as opposed to the generic kind because of their perceived value.
A trademark provides legal protection of the brand name. Through registration, the company is able to seek legal action against others who copy or use the brand without permission.
Eligibility for Use
Brand names that are not registered could be used by others without permission. Any limitations would be at the state and city level where the business is registered.
Trademarked names however can not be used except in “fair use” in which the name can be used as long as long as ownership of the name isn’t confused. Providing examples of Xerox (R) and Kleenex (R) in this article is an instance of fair use.
How to Register?
Brand names can be registered as trade names at the local and state levels. Businesses structured as corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies register with their state. Submitting a doing-business-as statement with your county or city gives notice to your local area about your business name.
Trademarks are obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Registering your brand name requires submitting a sample of the brand name, an application and fee. The process is long and because of the legal implications, the use of an intellectual property lawyer is recommended.
Length of Use
There are no time limitations to the use of a brand name, except any restrictions that may be regulated at the local level. For example, if your business and brand name are the same and you don’t keep your business registered with the state or renew your license, the name will be available to someone else.
Trademark protection is limited to 10 years. It can be renewed between the fifth and sixth year following registration and within the year before the end of every 10-year period by filing an Affidavit of Use. At the end of the sixth or 10th year, there is a six-month grace period in which the trademark registration can be maintained for an additional fee.