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I get asked this question from time to time by business owners, “How important is it to have a trademark and will it protect me from legal situations involving my business name?”

Here’s some basic guidance in this area and some insights as you think about whether you need a trademark for your business or some aspect of your business.

First, it’s important to understand “why” you want to have a trademark. If you have something of an intangible nature that you want to protect from others using, such as a name, then this is one way to help you achieve this objective. It can also a sign of strength and credibility in the market, something you have invested time and energy into and want to protect it from being used by someone else. And often, it is in the beginning stages and you feel it could become really big, so you don’t want others jumping on board and trying to use the name you have invested a lot of time in building.

If these are in alignment with what you are thinking, then there is a good chance you might want to pursue obtaining a trademark. There are five areas that your words or phrases would fall into in respect to how the law looks at it…

Generic…these would be generic words everyone uses, like dog, and are usually not available for trademark. Unless, however, a particular word happens to evolve into something that is very descriptive for your business or process. This is always a difficult area of discussion.

Coined…these are words you came up with specifically for your business or product or process you are using in the business. You created it, and it doesn’t exist today as being linked to what you are doing our creating.

Suggestive…these are words that “lead you” to think of something when you hear them. It’s like the psychology tests where they give you a picture and ask you what word describes it; only this would be using words that lead you to think of something in particular.

Descriptive…this is usually feature based and describes something about your business, product, service, or process. It is usually a short phrase to be a bit more descriptive than just a word.

Arbitrary…these are words that don’t relate at all to what you are doing. If you are in one industry and there is a common “language” used in that industry, this would be choosing a word from something completely different and applying it in your industry.

I encourage you to think about the need and the importance of obtaining a word trademark. It’s a pretty easy process, but it takes quite a bit of time. And while a URL/Domain name on the internet doesn’t replace the power of the trademark, it is important these days to have a solid domain name locked up. More on that in another post…

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