The best way all businesses can get into their customers' lives and stay there is through branding and this is something angel investors will expect when doing fundraising.
Trademarks are a key solution to the branding problem as they are unique and protected by the law from copying or use without the owner's consent. The protected nature of a trademark means that a business using another business's name could land in legal problems, with many companies sued for using another business name trademarks.
One company can file for multiple trademarks. Coca-Cola Company, for instance, has Coca Cola, their bottle shape, and the graphic representation of their name, as well as sub-brands like Fanta, Dasani, Sprite, Minute Maid, and so forth.
Trademarks go beyond some brand names and may include slogans. There is so much that falls into the trademark category that coming up with a new trademark can be hard work. The best solution for establishing a trademark is to do a trademark search so you do not end up using another business's trademark, which could result in a legal battle that could result in huge fines.
You also don't want to invest years of effort, money, and time, only to have to give it up due to trademark infringement. Trademarks can also be one of the most valuable forms of intellectual property (IP) a company can be built on. It can make your startup attractive to investors and acquirers. Failing to have one to protect your IP can mean the carpet is pulled out from under you just when you thought you made it. Or another company suing to take you out of the running as competition.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is something registered or established used to represent your company, product, or business in the marketplace to distinguish yourself from other competitors. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines trademarks to include words, phrases, symbols, designs, or a combination of things that identifies a product or service. A service mark is used to distinguish product service rather than products; hence they are used interchangeably. Trademarks are protected under common law, state law, or federal laws.
A great trademark should be easy to recognize and easy to market; hence getting your brand trademarked is a great step in marketing. The range of things that can be trademarked can include:
- A product name
- A sound
- Color or shape of a product
- Symbol or design
- A business name
- A logo or label
- A product packaging
- A texture
- A slogan
- Certain distinct colors and smells
- A motion
There are many things that can be trademarked to help a business represent itself or its product and services in the marketplace. However, there are some rules that guide what qualifies as a trademark. The selected symbol, slogan, or name has to be considered strong and not just out of the ordinary. However, there are times people have obtained trademarks on common phrases such as Nike's, 'Just Do It.' Some good criteria for a trademark are that it must be fanciful, generic, descriptive, and suggestive.
Why Conduct a Trademark Search
A trademark search helps you find goods and services that use trademarks related to your product or service so you can get legal protection for your mark. While avoiding impeding on an existing one. Trademark protection is vital for consumers to differentiate goods and services and know the source of your products. A trademark search is an essential but not mandatory process in the trademark application process. It enables you to ensure that you have a unique mark that has higher chances of getting approved by the relevant authority. That, in turn, preserves the value of your products, brand, and business.
A search helps you to establish who really owns the trademarks and may also be a great opportunity to register a patent that has fallen from legal protection. The process can be hard, and some people opt to hire lawyers to help them do a thorough trademark search. A great trademark search helps avoid accidentally infringing on registered trademarks that could lead to financial and legal losses.
Alejandro Cremades is a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by 'Shark Tank' star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley & Sons, the book was named one of the best books for entrepreneurs. The book offers a step-by-step guide to today's way of raising money for entrepreneurs.
Most recently, Alejandro built and exited CoFoundersLab which is one of the largest communities of founders online.
Prior to CoFoundersLab, Alejandro worked as a lawyer at King & Spalding where he was involved in one of the biggest investment arbitration cases in history ($113 billion at stake).
Alejandro is an active speaker and has given guest lectures at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia Business School, and at NYU Stern School of Business.