Question

What do I need to do to protect my business name or logo in California?

Gregory A. Nylen

Answered by:
Gregory A. Nylen

Located in Murrieta, CA
Lobb & Plewe, LLP

Gregory A. Nylen - Intellectual Property Litigation - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Gregory A. Nylen

Lobb & Plewe, LLP
Murrieta, CA
Phone: 951-788-9410
Fax: 951-788-0766

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Answer

The branding of a business and its products, including names, logos and other marketing assets, can be a huge component of your business’ success. That’s why it’s crucial to protect those assets through the trademark registration process. The process of submitting an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can be lengthy, but after registering your names and logos, you will have legal protection that will allow you to stop anyone else trying to use those components. That can make the difference between success and failure when it comes to competition in the marketplace.

The Registration Process

Registering a business’s name and trademarking it may sound interchangeable, but are different things. You may hold a common-law trademark through your use of the brand name or logo, although that does not give you much protection in the event of a challenge. You would have to prove that you used it first, as well as that the conflicting use is confusing enough to the public to impact business.  Common law trademark rights are also limited in geographic scope to the areas in which the brand name or logo is used.  Thus you would not be able to stop someone from using the same name or logo in another state where you don't sell or market goods or services.

Meanwhile, the process of registering your business name is much more official. It takes place when you submit an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application process involves proving your use of the mark as well as providing samples of that use. You can choose to apply to register your brand and logo either throughout the state or federally: There is generally a price increase for a federal registration, but your business may require broader protection depending on the type of transactions occurring.

Because of the complexity of the application, the process can be difficult. This is especially true if you are trying to start a business at the same time, and if you are trying to ensure that your brand is protected before starting to operate. An attorney can advise you on the type of registration you need, help you fill out the application and gather all the necessary documents, as well as make sure that your business is protected in the interim.

Protect Your Brand

It’s easy to think that if another business tried to use your name or logo, you could take them to court and easily solve the issue, even without a trademark or registration. However, the only way to ensure that your brand is protected is to register it. It gives you more potential remedies, as well as greater damages possible in court.  In addition, registering a mark allows it to be searched by others in the USPTO online database when they are considering registering a name or logo.  This can be a significant deterrent to others attempting to register confusingly similar marks before they even begin to use them in commerce.  And if your mark is registered, it can become incontestable after five years of use (assuming you file the proper forms at that time with the USPTO), which makes your mark immune from challenge by others, unless it has become a generic term for the goods or abandoned for nonuse, or was acquired by fraud.

Thus, the bottom line is registering trademarks relating to your business as early as possible is a very important step to protecting your business's intellectual property.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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