You put your energy, your creativity and your reputation into your business, and your Trademark represents that.

This free legal information is made available courtesy of Counsel to Creativity.

Your Trademark allows people to identify you, your type of work, the quality of your work—everything that you do to build your branding goes into your trademark.

What Can Get Trademarked?

Trademark is used for how you identify your business in trade, whether it’s your businesses name, its logo, its tagline or the name of a process or a service or a tool that’s branded. A trademark covers what you use to let people know that when they get your product or service, it comes from you.

In short, a trademark is how your business is identified.  And trademark law protects how you are identified—that is the form by which you are identified.

(Remember? Intellectual property is about the form of expression.  So it goes with trademark also.)

Let’s take my business as an example.  The name “Counsel to Creativity” is a trademark.  The logo—you can see it here—is a trademark.  And the designation “Clear & Friendly” for my line of products is a trademark.  Carson is itching to create a logo for Clear & Friendly, so that too could be a trademark.  All of them are trademarks of Counsel to Creativity LLC—they represent how I am identified in the market.

There is some confusion over what can be trademarked at all.

Not every word or phrase you may choose for your business can be trademarked.  There is a spectrum of what set of words or what images can actually be trademarked and used only for identifying your business.

That spectrum is of distinctiveness, and it runs from what’s called generic (words we use all the time and are defined in the dictionary) to what’s called fanciful (words that are completely made up and have no meaning outside the trademark).  Generic marks cannot be protected as trademarks.  Fanciful marks are presumptively protectable as trademarks.

There also can be confusion over when the law starts protecting a trademark.

You’ve chosen a name for your business.  When do you start having trademark rights to that name?

You have rights to a trademark when you first use it to identify your business.  So, when you’ve put it out there to your audience to identify your business as the source of what you offer, that’s when the law grants you trademark protection.

That’s the simple version: use business name, acquire trademark rights to the name.  And it’s true; that is the way that the law functions.  But there’s more.  The fact that you can register the mark with the US Trademark Office complicates this a bit.

Why would you register a trademark?

For two main reasons:

  1. First, it makes the mark searchable to others.  This creates a significant deterrent to others using a similar mark.  The trademark office does not review unregistered marks when it’s determining whether to register marks.
  2. Second, you gain added benefits if there’s a conflict.  In short, it avoids hassles, headache and wasted time and money.