Ownership and use of trademarks can be a significant boon to a business. Trademarks serve as memorable identifiers for goods and services so that consumers can identify the source of the product. Over time, consumers tend to develop a sense of trust in trademarks – they know and expect that if they see a recognized trademark they are buying a product of a certain level of quality.
While trademarks can help businesses build brand recognition and encourage customer loyalty, it is important to understand that trademarks carry with them certain legal rights. It is also key to remember that other businesses also have various trademarks of their own as well and that these other businesses are using their trademarks in just the same fashion that you are. As a business owner conducting business through the use of trademarks, please take care to ensure that you are not infringing on the trademark rights of others.
What Is Trademark Infringement?
When someone owns a trademark, and they use that trademark in commerce, certain legal protections are created in the trademark (such as common-law rights). Further still, if the trademark is federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or if the mark is registered at the state level, even more legal protections are afforded to the trademark. Of these rights, the most important right is the exclusive right to use the trademark in commerce to identify the source of a particular good or service, or a class of goods or services. Unauthorized use of a trademark is an infringement of a trademark owner’s exclusive right to use the trademark.
Tips for Avoiding Trademark Infringement
A good way to avoid committing trademark infringement is to start by being careful. When you are selecting a trademark that you would like to use with your business, seriously consider contacting an experienced trademark attorney to obtain a trademark clearance search. In a trademark clearance search, you provide your lawyer with the trademark that you would like to use with your business, and you identify the class of goods or services you would like to use the trademark with. Next, your lawyer will conduct a review of registered and unregistered trademarks to see if the trademark you would like to use is currently being used by someone else. Similarly, your lawyer will look for other trademarks that are already in use in commerce that are confusingly similar to the trademark you are interested in using. Based on the results of the trademark clearance search, you can decide whether it is safe to use the trademark in your business.
It is prudent to take steps at the outset to avoid infringing upon the trademark rights of others. Similarly, during the life of the trademark, you should regularly conduct periodic reviews of the relevant intellectual property landscape (i.e., review the trademarks of competitors and other businesses in the relevant industry) to ensure that you are not infringing on a trademark held by another, and that no one is infringing on your trademark rights.
A Skilled Trademark Lawyer Can Help You
It is important to avoid infringing on the trademark rights of others. The trademark professionals at The Rapacke Law Group can help you handle any trademark issues that you and your business might face. From registration, administrative proceedings before the USPTO, and litigation, our trademark lawyers are here to help. Please contact us today for a free initial consultation.