By Greg Schreiber
A trademark can be one of the most important assets that a company owns because it identifies and distinguishes the company and its products or services from competitors.
Business owners should consider registering the names, logos, taglines, and slogans (each, a “trademark,” “service mark,” or “mark”) used in connection with their goods or services with either the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the appropriate state government to protect and enforce their rights.
Registering a mark with the USPTO offers the broadest form of protection by evidencing the owner’s rights to use the mark and preventing others, including competitors, from using the same or a confusingly similar mark on a nationwide basis. Additionally, the
mark will be listed in the USPTO database, alerting others of the mark’s ownership.
Business owners may not be aware that a mark must meet certain criteria to be eligible for protection. To be registered with the USPTO, among other criteria, a mark must be distinctive and not be confusingly similar to an already registered mark. For example, a mark can be distinctive if it is fanciful (think “Lexus”), arbitrary (“Apple” for computers), or suggestive (“Netflix”). Registering a mark with the USPTO typically costs $350 per class for the initial application. Once a mark is registered, it must be continually used and maintained.
If protection of a mark nationwide is not necessary, a company can protect its mark by registering it in Nebraska. Registration of a mark in Nebraska is less onerous and expensive than registering with the USPTO, but only provides protection of the right to use the mark in Nebraska. This may be enough for a business that only operates and advertises locally. The filing fee for an application to register a mark in Nebraska is $100.
Additionally, if a company operates in Nebraska under a name other than its legal name, the business may register a trade name. The filing fee to register a trade name in Nebraska is $100. Business owners must be aware that another business using a mark before registration with the USPTO or applicable state may have the right to continue using the mark under common law.
Before business owners adopt and use a new name, logo, tagline, or slogan, it is essential that a proper search is conducted to confirm the same or similar mark is not already registered or in use. Suppose your proposed mark conflicts with or is confusingly similar to another mark. In that case, use of the mark could be challenged, or an infringement action can be filed, costing you valuable time and potentially significant expense.
The attorneys at AKC Law can assist you through the process of registering a trademark or trade name with the appropriate government agencies. We can also counsel you on how to use and maintain your marks. Contact Greg Schreiber at [email protected] if you need help navigating the trademark or trade name process.