When you have a business, it is important to protect your intellectual property. It is easy to get a patent or copyright and know when you need one, but when it comes to trademarks, you might be confused about whether you have one or how to make it official.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office explains you can secure a trademark for anything that identifies your business. It is a mark, such as a logo or the specific way you write your business name.
Your mark must be something that identifies your business or goods. The average person should be able to associate the mark with your business. When you have a trademark, you have legal protection against anyone else using that mark.
If your trademark includes words, you should understand that you do not own the words. You own the mark as a whole. Other people can use the words in your mark, but they cannot use the exact mark. In addition, it only offers you protection from the use of the mark in similar trades. For example, if your business sells dog food and someone selling toilet cleaning supplies uses the same mark, there is no violation occurring because a reasonable person would not believe that these products come from the same company.
You have trademark protection when you begin using the mark, but for complete protection, you need to register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Registration allows you to use the registered trademark designation, an “R” inside a circle. Without registration, you can only use the trademark symbol, TM.
If you have a distinct mark you use for your business, registering it can provide you with more protection. Remember, all your mark needs to do is distinguish your brand or product.