Trademark Attorney: Four Trademark Questions for Growing Businesses

 

business trademarkBy Eric Perrott, Esq.

We have a special guest author today. MarketCrest has known Eric and his law firm for years. Actually, Eric was the attorney that secured both of the MarketCrest registered business trademarks.  

He is a business trademark attorney with Gerben Law Firm, PLLC. Eric counsels clients on trademark and copyright law issues and provides business trademark analysis, process and registration services at flat-fees.

 

Enjoy, and take good notes:

Your trademarks are more than just the name of your company or a sleek logo. A trademark represents not only your company’s product or service, but also the quality, the ethos, the mission statement, the customer service, and many other facets of your business that customers will identify with.

Are you an “Apple” person or a “Google” person?

Are you a “North Face” person or a “Lululemon” person?

Brand identity is important and developing a strong brand isn’t easy. Companies of all sizes spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing campaigns to increase brand awareness and to drive new customers to their business.

While marketing and advertising is key for brand development, business owners from local mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies know that to build a strong, long-lasting brand, companies must protect their trademarks.

Below are four questions company owners should be able to answer about their business trademarks.

 

What are some of my business trademarks?

It might sound simple, but one of the hardest aspects of trademark protection is recognizing what a trademark actually is.

A trademark can be almost anything that represents the “good will” of a business. (Think of “good will” as all of those aspects-quality, customer service, style, etc.-mentioned above).

It can be a word or design, but it can also be a slogan (“I’m Lovin’ It”), unique store layout, or unique product packaging. It can even be a sound (the NBC chime), color (Tiffany blue), smell, or movement (like the unique way a Lamborghini’s doors open). The possibilities are endless.

However, every trademark must be “distinctive,” meaning that it must be something that consumers connect with one business, as opposed to a descriptive term or generic term that merely describes the products or services.

Descriptive words can still become trademarks, but a company must show that over time, those descriptive words are cemented in consumer’s minds as representing one company.

For example, American Airlines, National Rent-a-Car, Best Buy – all of these terms are, at their heart, descriptive. However, they are so engrained in consumers minds as trademarks that the companies enjoy trademark protection for those phrases.

 

Is someone else using a trademark similar to yours?

Once you’ve selected or identified a strong trademark that is not merely descriptive, the next step is to analyze whether another company in the industry has been using a similar trademark for longer than you have.

Under U.S. trademark law, trademark infringement occurs when a company uses a trademark that is confusingly similar to a pre-existing trademark for related goods and services. This is not just an analysis of whether someone else is using the exact same business trademark as you.

Trademarks can be confusingly similar is they are similar is sight, sound, meaning or overall commercial impression. Similarly, the goods and services do not need to be identical either, just similar, which is a legal analysis.

For example, hotels and restaurants are almost always considered “similar.” Wine and cheese have been considered similar because they are frequently used in conjunction with each other.

In order to gauge the potential risk of a trademark, a trademark attorney can perform a comprehensive search and analysis, wherein the attorney will look at registered and unregistered trademarks and provide a detailed analysis of the potential risks from a legal perspective.

Without a comprehensive search, it is extremely difficult to know about existing trademarks that could be confusingly similar to your own.

Once you have “cleared” the trademark, or generally accept and understand the risks of using (or expanding the use) of your trademarks in the marketplace, the next step towards protecting your trademark is registering with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

 

Why should I register my Business trademark?

Trademark owners can register their trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”). Trademark registration gives the trademark owner a number of significant advantages over those who do not register their trademarks. A few of those advantages are:

  • A government document stating that you are the owner of the trademark: When you apply for a trademark, a government attorney will review your trademark in the same way that we discussed earlier – the attorney will make sure it meets the standards of trademark protection and make sure no other registered trademarks are confusingly similar.

When a registration is issued, it is an official document from the U.S. government that gives you the legal presumption that you own the trademark. A prior user can attempt to cancel your registration, but until that happens, you are presumed to be the owner.

  • Trademark Registrations as an asset: Investors and other potential partners often look at intellectual property when looking at the health and long-term plans of a company. Trademark registrations are assets that can show you have a long-term plan for your brand. Trademarks can even be used as collateral for loans in some cases.
  • Deterrents to Competitors: A trademark registration acts a deterrent to competitors, who are likely searching the USPTO website (and other third-party aggregator websites) to gauge the risk of using certain trademarks. In fact, a registration acts as notice throughout the U.S. that you are the owner of the mark. No one can then say that they had never heard of you before selecting their mark – the law presumes that businesses will do their due diligence.
  • Online Marketplace Enforcement: An increasing number of online marketplaces are requiring trademark registrations to join special brand management programs.

For example, Amazon’s Brand Registry Program required a registered business trademark in order to join. The U.S. Customs department also requires a trademark registration to register with their counterfeit brand monitoring program.

From start to finish, registration will take at least nine months and sometimes more, as the government reviews the trademark and allows third-parties an opportunity to object to the registration.

However, your protection starts from the date you apply, so it is important to file as soon as possible.

 

How do I keep my trademarks protected?

You developed a strong trademark and registered it with the USPTO. Now what?

Now, you must police the marketplace and the USPTO to ensure that no competitors infringe on your trademark rights. A trademark is only as strong as its impact on consumers, so if someone else is using a similar trademark, then any experience not under your control can permanently damage your trademark.

Brands are often about first impressions. Customers also are human and don’t have perfect recall and often make impulsive decisions on whether to purchase something without thorough research.

If a customer has a bad experience with a brand that is close in sight, sound or meaning to yours, your brand is likely to suffer as well. Unless that client can recognize the differences at a fleeting glance, the negative feelings they have towards that brand are likely to transfer to you, losing you customers.

Whether its an innocent mistake by a competitor or a deliberate attempt to “cash in” on your brand’s recognition and good-will, you must be diligent about the protection of your trademark against infringers.

If not, you could lose the ability to protect your trademark in the future, as the scope of your trademark becomes smaller and smaller, until you barely have any rights left to protect.

 

Why is protecting trademarks Important? 

Trademark protection is important for a long-lasting and memorable brand. Businesses spend large portions of their budget creating brand awareness, but not nearly enough go through the steps to properly analyze and protect their trademarks.

Through effective trademark protection, business can secure help secure and grow their valuable brands.

Gerben Law Firm, PLLC is regularly a top-filer at the United States Patent & Trademark Office and its attorneys have been named “Top Practitioners” in the Washington, D.C. region by the World Trademark Review. Mr. Perrott provides free consultations on trademark and copyright issues and can be reached at eperrott@gerbenlawfirm.com.

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The Ultimate Guide to Online Reputation Management

The Ultimate Guide to Online Reputation Management

Welcome to the world of online reputation management, where one ill-timed tweet or potentially offense comment back to a reviewer can easily cost you your entire business.

In today’s world especially, it can be tough to know the best way to manage your brand’s reputation online. How can you ensure that you defend yourself and your business practices, while also making sure consumers know you value their opinion?

That’s what online reputation management is all about.

Read on to access our ultimate guide to getting it right.

Step One: Find Out What They’re Saying

We get it: it can be incredibly stressful to think about Googling yourself or your business to know what people really think of you.

However, if you don’t face the music, you have no chance of improving — and you’re telling your customers that their opinion doesn’t really matter to you.

The first step of good reputation management is to do a quick search on yourself and your brand.

Read your reviews, make sure you’re aware of any online complaints, and even search your business’s name on social media marketing platforms like Instagram and Twitter. We also suggest setting up a Google Alert for your brand’s name.

This way, anytime someone posts something online related to your company, you know about it as soon as it happens. This allows you to respond to the comment, and control the situation before it gets away from you.

Don’t like what you see?

If unflattering or inappropriate pictures of you or your employees pop up, do what you can about getting them deleted. Also wipe your old Twitter page if needed, and close any college-era social media personal platforms.

Step Two: Control Your Narrative

So, you did a little bit of searching about yourself and your brand.

Unfortunately, you didn’t like what you learned. Before you start panicking that it’s too late, focus on what you can do to salvage the situation.

The first thing?

Build or completely revamp your personal website. This way, when people Google your name, that will be the first thing that comes up about you — and you can present yourself as a professional.

Next, start doing what you can to push those negative reviews, old photos, and social media missteps off the first page of search engine results.

Submit articles to industry journals. Start a blog. Create new social media accounts for both yourself and your business.

Step Three: Respond To The Negative

How you respond to a crisis or a mistake says a lot about your personal character — and your ability to maintain a level head.

Of course, we know that usually, keeping your cool when someone has insulted you or your business is easier said than done.

The number-one rule of responding to negative comments and reviews? Give yourself a few minutes — or hours — to calm down first. Don’t respond or act on defensiveness or raw emotion.

Instead, step away and get control over yourself. Then, really think about what the person was saying. Chances are that, even if they didn’t say it in the best way, they still provided some constructive thought or criticism about your business.

Even better?

Their review gives you the chance to prove to both current and potential customers that you want to listen to feedback and keep your customers satisfied.

Start by thanking the person for their review. Then, assure them that you’re going to follow up on the situation, both with the reviewer and the responsible staff/team member.

Next, ask them what you could do to make their experience better. Finally, offer them either a free or discounted service/product if they’re willing to give you another chance to make it right.

Step Four: Consider A Professional

Let’s face it — whether because of your age, your nationality, or even the amount of time you spend online, you won’t always know what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Further, you may not have the time or even the writing ability to craft an apology in the right way or to correctly respond to a review.

Sometimes, hiring professional marketers or an online reputation management expert is the best course of action.

First of all, they have the time to do the research into what’s being said about you online. Additionally, they have the marketing experience needed to prevent you from making major mistakes in the first place.

And finally, they have the resources to actually address and fix the situation — instead of just ignoring it.

Need More Help With Online Reputation Management?

Remember — managing your reputation online isn’t always about avoiding mistakes. Instead, it’s about knowing the proper way to own up to them.

Looking for a reputation management professional with the skill set you need?

We can make it happen. In addition to managing your brand’s online reputation, we also offer Search Engine Optimization (SEO), PPC, website design, and several other online digital marketing services to take your brand to the next level.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to start thinking about your online reputation management strategy.

Instead, spend some time on our website to learn more about how we can help you avoid making costly mistakes that severely damage — or even outright destroy — your brand’s reputation.

When you’re ready to take control of your narrative, reach out to us to get started with a free marketing quote.

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Digital Marketing Agency, MarketCrest Hires Marketing Coordinator Hayden Smith

Hayden Smith MarketCrest Graphic Design and PromotionsMarketCrest, LLC has accomplished a great deal already this year, including relocating the company to Downtown Historic McKinney and recently participating in the Chamber’s ribbon cutting and grand opening as an official McKinney, TX business.

The firm provides marketing consultation and services that include website, SEO, PPC and social media management to businesses across the U.S. The past few years have been fruitful and fun for the McKinney, TX Marketing Agency.

To support increased demand for content and web work, the firm hired a new Graphic Design and Promotions Coordinator.

Hayden Smith, the Coordinator, graduated from Texas Tech in December 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Advertising and has recently moved back to North Texas to start his career.

“I am excited for this opportunity and look forward to being an integral part of the MarketCrest team and delighting our clients,” said Smith.

His role includes copy and web design, email & social media marketing, advertising, graphic design and promotions.

“We’re excited to add Hayden to the team! He’s going to be an asset and our clients are going to love his work.,” said MarketCrest CEO, Scott Berry.

MarketCrest, LLC is an award winning, full-service marketing firm focused exclusively on Marketing Consulting & Services that drive revenue growth. Simply, we exist to help our clients compete and grow… and we expect to be held accountable for their improved performance.

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FCL Graphics Marketing Case Study

As a recognized leader in their industry, our client, FCL, specializes in developing fully automated personalized data-driven campaigns. Over the course of their 40 year history, their service offerings had outpaced the competition, but their personal brand and marketing had not. FCL leadership sought to reposition their brand with a portfolio of current, relevant communication. We worked closely with FCL to define their needs; develop a comprehensive market solution and expand their reach leveraging ROI driven solutions. Our solution included corporate branding, content creation, website development, multi-channel direct marketing, variable data print communications, public relations and social media marketing. We continue to work with them on revenue generation and other key initiatives. Read more

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