Trademark 101: Why You Need to Protect Your Brand
Exercising your trademark rights is one of the many tools you have to own and protect your ideas. A trademark is anything indicating the source of goods or services that is distinctive. These indicators include: words, symbols, colors, smells, short A/V clips, packaging, product configurations. The idea is to prevent consumers from confusing your hard work for an opportunist looking to undermine what you have built. Your trademark represents your hard work and goodwill and is not for another to take advantage of. For example:
  • CAT (Caterpillar I) owns the particular shade of yellow they use on their machinery,
  • Coca Cola owns a trade dress for the shape of their bottle,
  • MGM owns the short clip of the lion roaring,
  • The NBC chime is a protected trademark that cannot be appropriated by a competitor, and
  • Even a distinct smell, like for Play-Doh, can be used as a source identifier to a good or service you provide.
Trademark protection is not only for multinational corporations – increasingly, a diverse group of entrepreneurs and small businesses are realizing the value in protecting their brands. The USPTO, as recently as June 2021, has informed the public of the overwhelming increase in applications which is due to a combination of: 1) an increase in accessibility to information regarding trademark protection, and 2) bad faith actors that take advantage of a missed opportunity. In today’s world, a carpenter can own their brand and designs as long as it does not relate to the functionality of the product. Similarly, a brewery could use a logo to indicate the source of the goods sold by them. A bakery can identify a color scheme, packaging, logo, slogan, smell, and much more as registrable trademarks. A registered trademark is a great way to deter competitors and counterfeiters from appropriating your brand. Ownership of a registered trademark allows you to exercise control over the quality of goods and/or services you portray to the public. It opens doors to expansion, conservation, and most of all protecting what you own. Most states, including Illinois, have enacted a deceptive trade practices act and/or a consumer fraud and deceptive practices act which allows you to bring state and federal claims against a competitor or counterfeiter. This extra layer allows innovators to enhance and protect their brand. These protections are available for a wide range of businesses, and the only way to enforce a right is to know how to exercise it. Drishti Law can help you manage your portfolio, assist in developing a branding strategy that aligns with your vision, and protect your assets.