So, you think you’ve found the perfect name for your new business or product, but have you really? That perfect name could land your business in legal trouble, if someone else owns the trademark.
Even if your name is deemed too similar to another company’s trademark, you might be required to change it. That is why it makes sense to research trademarks before settling on a business name, product name or tagline, or – worse – investing significant amounts of money in signage, packaging and marketing materials bearing a name you won’t be able to use.
You may remember a fairly high-profile trademark dispute that forced a Colorado company to undergo a painful renaming: Fast casual restaurant chain Qdoba actually changed its name twice – from Zuma to Z-Teca to Qdoba – because of lawsuits from other restaurants that carried the same or similar names. In another high-profile case, the World Wrestling Federation changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment after it lost a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund for trademark violation.
The two organizations mentioned above bounced back after their name changes, but a renaming can cost your business valuable time and resources at best. At worst, it may cause you to lose customers and revenue.
You can start by registering your domain name, but a practice known as “cybersquatting” means that disputes can arise over similar domains. According to LegalZoom:
“Trademark infringement existed before the Internet, but the ease of registering domain names has increased the challenges of trademark rights. Because anyone from high school students to multi-million dollar corporations can register domain names at little expense, it may be a good idea to register your name if you feel it could be threatened by a cybersquatter.”
Even before you register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, you can claim a trademark by using the “TM” symbol, like this: ProductName™. However, you may not use the registered trademark symbol ( ® ) until you have officially registered. To learn more about legally registering your trademark, visit the USPTO website.
If your small business or emerging business needs legal assistance with trademarks and other intellectual property concerns, contact EmergeCounsel today.