You’ve Worked Hard to Develop Your Brand, But Is Your Investment Protected?

Brandon Zuniga

Don’t let someone else steal your brand.  Imagine this: you’ve worked hard for about 10 years to develop your brand and name recognition.  After years putting in sweat equity, your business is finally starting to take off.  It might even be time to expand to a neighboring state.  There’s only one problem.  A couple from a neighboring state started up a similar business with a similar name about three years ago.

Neither you nor the other couple were aware of each other.  Now that you’re ready to expand, you decide you should get a federal trademark registration for your business.  You’ve heard that the federal registration can give you nationwide protection for your mark.  In other words, you can get protection not just for your state, but for the entire United States.  Unfortunately, there are some exceptions, for example, if a competitor uses the mark in good faith in a remote location before you file for federal registration.  In such a case, the competitor may be entitled to keep using a mark that is similar to yours, even after you get your federally registered trademark.

So how can you prevent this from happening to you?  Get a federal registration for your mark as soon as possible.  In the example above, if you had obtained  a federal registration before your competitors set up shop, you could have prevented them from using your mark to sell a similar product.   Unfortunately, you never know when a competitor will independently come up with a similar idea or even try to steal your business plan while alleging they never knew about you.  The safest approach is to get a federal trademark registration for your goods or services as soon as you plan to sell them.