If You Are Making Your Mark on the Business World, Protect It: The Importance of Trademarks in Today’s Business Climate

This article originally appeared in the Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP quarterly newsletter (Volume 5, Issue 4) in December, 2013. 

In the current economic climate, where many consumers are operating on tight budgets, it is more important than ever to attract and retain as many customers as possible. Losing a customer not only directly hurts your business, but it also enriches your competition, which can have long-term adverse consequences for you. One of the most effective methods by which businesses attract and retain customers is by labeling their products with distinctive and memorable marks. Nike, Cadillac, Rolex, Victoria’s Secret, and Coca Cola (just to name a few) all owe their fabulous success to, in part, effective brand labeling through effective trademark usage. Trademarks, however, are not just for corporate giants. Any business that makes a good product or provides quality services, no matter how small, should consider utilizing trademarks to protect and enhance their business reputations.

What are the benefits of trademarks? Trademarks exist to help the public identify which company makes which products. Thus, at their core, trademarks are actually intended to protect consumers by ensuring that consumers can trust the quality of the products and services they are purchasing. Nevertheless, engendering trust and goodwill among a consumer base is integral to attracting and retaining customers. Trademarks, therefore, benefit businesses by allowing a business to mark its goods and services so that customers can easily identify the business’s goods and services each time the customer seeks to make a purchase.

What can be trademarked? Generally speaking, trademarks cover your company’s name, logo, and slogan (although there are more esoteric forms of trademark protection available to ubiquitous companies).   But there are limits on what may be trademarked. For some terms, such as geographic identifiers like “Northeast,” or terms that are deemed merely descriptive of an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the goods and services it represents (e.g. “denim” for jeans), it would be unfair to grant one business the exclusive right to use the term, and therefore such terms are not protectable by trademark. Likewise, if your company uses a name, logo, or slogan that is similar to another company, and there is potential that customers could become confused over which company makes which products, trademark protection may not be available unless one company tweaks its name, logo, or slogan to eliminate the potential for confusion. Usually, a relatively quick search of currently registered and pending trademarks can reveal whether your prospective trademark is worth pursuing or whether tweaks must first be made.

Are trademarks worth it? Often, yes. Trademark protection allows your company to prevent others from catching a free ride on the goodwill your company has spent time and money building. In essence, trademarks are really about fairness. Owning a valid trademark allows you to prevent another company from unfairly using your business’s good reputation to sell its products. And, because trademarks are among the cheaper forms of intellectual property rights to obtain, the relatively minor cost of obtaining a trademark is often worth having the power to protect your business reputation if the need arises.

The bottom line: In the marketplace, the products and services you provide are the projection of your business – they are what customers see and remember. If your business has a reputation for providing quality products and services, a trademark may be an excellent way to protect that reputation and ensure your business continues to attract and retain customers. 

Article written by Michael Keenan, Esq. For more information, contact Mr. Keenan at (607) 231-6927 or via email at mkeenan@hhk.com.

Recent Entries

©2017 HH&K Contact Us: 80 Exchange Street, P.O. Box 5250, Binghamton NY 13902-5250 | 607-723-5341 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

ATTORNEY ADVERTISING  Prior Results Do not Guarantee a Similar Outcome