As a business owner, you're fully aware that your intellectual property is valuable. What you may not understand is that there are many steps you can take to protect this property.
Preventing other individuals and companies from using your trademark is easier said than done, especially if you don't have someone on staff who can devote the necessary time and attention to these matters.
Put your trademark to use
The first thing you need to do is put your trademark to use, such as by associating it with a service or product. While you can sell trademarked services or goods, this isn't required as long as you're doing business under your mark.
Are you using an ® or TM?
It's important to understand the difference between the use of TM or an "R" in a circle next to your trademark. Here's what they mean:
- Use a TM symbol next to your trademark if you have yet to register your trademark. While you don't have to use this symbol to claim your trademark, it's good practice to do so. This could work in your favor down the road should you have to take action to protect your trademark.
- Use an "R" in a circle if you have formally registered your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
You are not required by law to register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but this gives you an added layer of protection.
What to do about trademark infringement
If you find that someone is infringing on your trademark, the first thing you should do is send a "cease and desist" letter. It's possible that they made an honest mistake, and this letter is more than enough to clear the air.
If the other party continues to ignore your letters and use your trademark without permission, learn more about your legal rights. It's not a battle you necessarily want to take on, but it's critical to protect the intellectual property of your company.
The primary goal of a trademark infringement lawsuit is to prevent future use, but you also have the right to seek damages in the event that economic harm resulted from the unauthorized use.
If you're interested in learning more about trademark infringement and other types of business disputes, visit our website and review our past blog posts.