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Building a Brand: How and Why to Use a Trademark

Early this week, Millward Brown Optimor announced Apple as the winner of the 6th annual BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands study. The designer computer company behind the iPad, iPhone, iPod (and any other iThing) beat out Google, the previous reigning champion, by an estimated $41.8 billion dollars. Other companies on the list included “heritage” companies like Coca-Cola, McDonalds and GE. The value of these brands don’t just have to do with the companies’ net worth, but with public’s perception of these companies.

So what goes into making a valuable brand? Hard work, lots of sweat, and a bit of luck, for sure, but perhaps the key to a recognizable and world-renowned brand is a good trademark.

What is a trademark? It’s any words, images or combination of the two that use use to identify your organization. Essentially, it’s a symbolic stand-in for everything you represent: when people see the swoosh, or hear the slogan “just do it”, every thought they’ve ever had about Nike comes to mind. Because of this association, a trademark is one of your most powerful branding tools, one you’ll want to control wisely. So, here are the key steps to controlling your trademark:

  1. Register your brand with the USPTO. Make sure your name and artwork are original and not already in use. By officially registering your brand, you also get to use the federally approved ® mark, which stands for “registered trademark”. This will allow you to take further steps…
  2. Notify the public of your claim. Using the informal TM or SM, or the legal ® lets the public know that you care about your name enough to trademark it, and that you are different from every other organization or company out there.
  3. Defend your brand name. Keep tabs on your trademark, so that if you see someone else using your brand name, slogan, or image, you have the legal right to get them to stop.
  4. Get your trademark registered in other countries. Even if you’re not physically expanding your business or distribution, you want to expand your recognition as far as possible.
  5. Get your trademark listed with the US Customs and Border Protection Service to prevent the import of infringing goods.

Is your business the next Apple? Who knows, so why not get started today. Check out the Rocket Lawyer Intellectual Property Center to learn more.

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