Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, small business confidence is slowly rising in the third quarter of 2020.
According to the CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, the Confidence Index Score for small businesses was 49 in Q2 of 2020; it has since risen to 53 for Q3. This uptick, however slight it may be, signifies small businesses still have a difficult road ahead in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
One positive note from the survey is that 36% of businesses state that current operating conditions are “good” in Q3. This is a significant rise from Q2, which was at 18%, and a sign that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for existing and new businesses alike.
What if you are starting a business during this time? As entrepreneurs incorporate and form LLCs, they will be coming up with unique names, phrases, symbols, logos, and designs for their startups. They will need protections, also known as trademarks, for their businesses. Registering trademarks helps set up a business for success.
Why is it necessary to register a trademark? What is it about trademarks that make these protections so valuable for businesses? Let’s take a closer look at the value of a trademark and what you need to know before you file a trademark application.
Trademarks are a symbol of your identity
Trademarks are a symbol of the identity of your business. The original names, phrases, symbols, logos, and designs that you create for your business help to identify your products and services. Consumers will be able to distinguish your offerings from that of competing businesses largely thanks to memorable trademarks.
If you are new to starting a small business, you may confuse trademarks to be the same concept as copyrights. It is true that both are forms of intellectual property protection. However, copyrights do not protect names, slogans, or logos. Instead, a copyright helps protect an original work of authorship. This applies to literary works like fiction novels, performing arts like music compositions and lyrics, virtual arts like artwork and illustrations, photographs, motion pictures, and architectural works. The creator of these works is considered to be its author and may file for copyright registration.
Trademarks help build the reputations of brands
The visibility of a trademark allows customers to spot and recognize your brand in a crowded marketplace. Consider a trademark like the iconic McDonald’s golden arches logo. When you see it, even at a distance, you instantly know you are not far from delicious cheeseburgers and French fries.
Recognizable trademarks also help to build a brand’s reputation. An effective trademark can influence the buying decisions of consumers and bring to mind positive, powerful messages about your brand. Let’s return to the example of the golden arches. This trademark is associated with the fast food restaurant. The menu at McDonald’s is available to consumers globally. It is so visible that, to date, the company advertises “over 99 billion served” in its messaging.
Trademark registration provides its owners with exclusive rights
Until a trademark has been registered at the federal level, it is possible that a competing business may claim it for their own use. The trouble with an unregistered trademark is twofold. As a business owner, you run the risk of having your original mark infringed upon by another company. There is no way to argue that the mark is yours because, well, it hasn’t been registered.
Additionally, it is entirely possible that the trademark you created may already be in existence. The mark you created and believe is unique may already be registered or pending registration by a different company. You could be accidentally plagiarizing their mark and not realize it!
The best way to nip both these problems in the bud is to register your trademark as soon as possible. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to get started with this process.
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How do I register for a trademark?
Ideally, you should file for trademark registration as soon as possible. However, prior to filing a trademark application, you’ll need to verify that your mark is indeed unique. You can easily do this by completing a name search.
What’s a name search? A name search allows you to search through existing and pending trademark applications. The TESS database that’s available through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a great place to start. Conducting a thorough search helps determine that your trademark is unique and available to register and use. If the mark is not available, you will need to brainstorm other trademark options and conduct a name search to determine if they are unique.
What if my trademark is available?
What happens if it turns out your trademark is available? It’s time to start the filing process to register the trademark! Once you have conducted a name search, you may fill out a trademark application to protect your trademark. You may file with the help of a third-party trademark filing service or file on your own with the help of your Secretary of State. Remember to pay the filing fee associated with the application.
After submitting your application, you may consider utilizing a trademark watch service. This service, provided by a third-party filing company, helps to monitor the trademark for potential infringement. It also monitors your existing application, allowing you to know first when your trademark has been approved—and you have exclusive rights to the mark as its owner.
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