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4 Ways To Protect Your Brand

As an attorney who represents small business owners, one of the most common questions that people ask me is:

How do I protect my brand?

I almost always recommend one particular method — Federal Trademark Registration — but there are actually at least four (4) different legal strategies to protect a brand:

  1. Federal trademark registration
  2. State trademark registration
  3. State trade name registration
  4. International trademark registration

1. Federal Trademark Registration

In terms of legal remedies, this is almost certainly the most potent form of brand protection available.

There are four (4) principle benefits associated with federal trademark registration, specifically:

  1. The Right to Use The Trademark Nationwide
  2. The Right to File For An Injunction
  3. The Right to File For Monetary Damages
  4. The Right to Prohibit Importation

15 U.S.C. § 1051, et seq.

Now, that probably sounds like a whole lot of leaglease, but suffice it to say those benefits are very significant and it you want to learn more about them, you can read this blog post: 4 Federal Trademark Benefits.

Free Federal Trademark Checklist

You've agonized over your company's brand name. It needed to appeal to your customers while also representing the heart and soul of your company. But what happens if a competitor tries to steal your brand — how do you protect it? Download this special report to learn more.

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2. State Trademark Registration

Unlike the law associated with federal trademark, which is the same throughout the United States, circuit splits aside, state trademark law varies from state to state. In fact, some states don't even use the term "trademark," rather, rather they use terms like "DBA," but that's beside the point.

The biggest weakness with state trademark registration is that such registration is only valid in the state in which it was registered. This may not be a big issue for some businesses, but it could be for others.

In theory, a business — let's call it Business A which is also located in State A — could come up with a great brand name and develop a great brand associated with it. Seeing the success that Business A is having, another business located in another state — let's call it Business B which happens to be in State B — starts using Business A's brand name.

Guess what? That's probably legal IF Business A hasn't conducted business in State B.

What does this mean? For starters, Business A can't stop Business B from using its brand name. Maybe even worse, however, Business A can't conduct business using its own brand name in State B.

So how could Business A have avoided this mess in the first place? Well, it could have registered its brand name in both State A and State B, or it could have applied for federal trademark registration, which would have given it the exclusive right to use its brand name throughout the entire U.S. and would allow it to stop Business B from using its brand name and would allow Business A to use its brand name in State B.

3. State Trade Name Registration

Similar to state trademarks, state trade names, such as Example, LLC, only receive protection in the states in which they are registered.

In other words, the same problem applies to both state trademarks and state trade names.

4. International Trademark Registration

If a business sells products or provides services throughout the world, not just in the United States, the business can apply for trademark registration in each country in which it does business or it can leverage the Madrid Protocol to register its trademark in all countries which are party to the Madrid Protocol Treaty in one fell swoop.

This brief overview of some important considerations associated with federal trademarks is not legal advice and is by no means comprehensive. Always seek the advice of a competent professional when making important financial and legal decisions.

Federal Trademark AttorneySteve Cook is a trademark lawyer at Cook & Cook. Although his main office is located in Mesa, Arizona, he firm represents clients throughout the United States..

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