As an entrepreneur, you know how difficult it can be to get even brilliant ideas to consumers. After all, the marketplace is incredibly crowded with both brick-and-mortar and online stores seemingly everywhere. To help your business stand out from others, you have spent a significant amount of resources decorating it.
Your company’s decor allows existing customers to recognize it instantly. It is also appealing to potential customers, as it gives them a reason to walk into your store. To ensure a competitor does not rip off your decor, you may want to apply for trademark protection.
How do trademarks protect trade dress?
Simply by decorating your store in an inherently distinctive way, you likely have some ownership interest in your decor. Nevertheless, a bigger or more aggressive competitor may be able to out-lawyer you and force you to stop using the decor you designed.
With an official trademark, you have another layer of protection. That is, the U.S. government officially recognizes your ownership of your trade dress. You also put competitors on notice of your ownership of the decor.
Does your decor qualify for trademark protection?
Just as you can apply for an official trademark for your company’s name, slogan, tagline or logo, you probably can apply for a trademark for its decor.
To do so, you must have decor that is eligible for trade dress protection. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, this means your decor must be both unique and nonfunctional. Therefore, you should be ready to produce comprehensive evidence to support each of these criteria.
If your competitors misappropriate your trade dress, they are likely to confuse your customers and cause you to lose money. Ultimately, provided your decor qualifies for it, seeking trademark protection is a cost-effective way to maintain your competitive edge.