By Robert Stitt
If your idea is a book, movie, music, painting, or so forth, then you register your idea for a copyright. But if the idea comes in the form of a word, name, or symbol; perhaps, a logo that makes it possible to tell one item from another item you obtain a trademark or service mark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Whether you get a trademark or a service mark depends on your type of business. If you are marking a word, phrase, or symbol, then you get a trademark and get to put the little TM next to your information. If, however, you have a service business, then you get the service mark, a capital R in a circle, to show your name has been registered. For example, the names McDonalds and Walmart are registered since these businesses provided services. However, the golden arches symboling McDonalds are trademarked.
The president and CEO of Fourlane, a reseller of Quickbooks and a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, Marjorie Adams, believes all business owners should trademark their company name. She cautions that you are dealing with the government, so even small things take time, research and lots of patience. Says Adams, “Just like anything involving the government, the process takes months of research and there is a long waiting period to get approved.”
Fourlane and POSWarehouse are both owned by Adams and are both trademarked. In fact, when she changed her original company name from AQB to Fourlane, one of the first things she did was apply for the trademark. Actually, Fourlane is registered, since they are a service company that helps businesses improve accounting efficiency through bookkeeping and tax software and business process training.
Adams gives several reasons why she took the time and expense to register her companies and why you should, too.
1. Protection from copycats. Your business name is often who you are, it carries your reputation. You don’t want somebody who offers substandard products or services using your name. A trademark prevents others from using your name or symbol.
2. Social Media. Often times people will look for you on social media by your brand name. Once the brand name is yours, so is access to the social media pages associated with the name. Others cannot use or misrepresent your name or brand without consequences.
3. A trademark never expires. They can be sold, but they do not run out like copyrights. Even brands that have gone away, like Pabst Blue Ribbon, are still trademarked. If you want to use that name, you have to pay for it.
4. For all of the benefits, getting a trademark is relatively cheap. The cost is usually less than $350 not including research or legal fees.
5. Loyalty. When people see the trademark symbol they know that you are in business for the long-term. You are not just another name passing through. Commitment to a business brings in customers who are committed to you.
6. No Cybersquatting. As of 1999, once you have your trademark, others cannot register a domain name that is identical or very similar to yours. If they do, you can sue them for damages. With the amount of business that is done on the internet, this protection is priceless.
Do you trademark your business name? If in doubt, do it; better safe than sorry.