Trademark Missteps: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

DiAngelo Law Blog Post - Trademark Missteps_ Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Navigating the world of trademarks can be tricky, especially if you’re a small business owner, influencer, or creator just starting out. But don’t worry! We’re here to help you avoid the common pitfalls that can turn your trademark dreams into a legal nightmare. Let’s dive into the most frequent trademark mistakes and how you can sidestep them with ease.

Mistake 1: Not Conducting a Thorough Trademark Search

Picture this: you’ve come up with the perfect name for your brand. You’re excited, you start using it everywhere, and then you get hit with a cease-and-desist letter. Ouch! The problem? You didn’t check if someone else was already using that name.

How to Avoid It:

Before you fall in love with a brand name, make sure to do a comprehensive trademark search. This isn’t as simple as a quick Google search. You need to delve into the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database, and this is where it can get tricky. What a lot of people think might be “clear” or “different” from another mark, might not actually be different from a legal standpoint. To ensure thoroughness and accuracy, hire an attorney who knows exactly where to look and what to look for. It’s a small investment that can save you from big headaches down the line. 

Pro Tip: Do not use a non-attorney trademark service. They will just search the USPTO database just like you because they cannot give you legal advice or analysis. 

Mistake 2: Choosing a Weak Trademark

A trademark that’s too generic or descriptive won’t do much to protect your brand. For instance, naming your coffee shop “The Coffee Shop” isn’t going to set you apart or provide strong legal protection. In fact, this example wouldn’t be protectable at all.

How to Avoid It:

Aim for something distinctive. Think of trademarks like “Google” or “Apple.” They don’t describe the product directly but are memorable and unique. The more distinctive your trademark, the stronger the protection it offers.  For more information about choosing a strong name, check out our Naming Blog.

Mistake 3: Not Registering Your Trademark

Some business owners believe that simply using a name gives them all the protection they need, or, frankly, they just don’t think about it. While you do get some  rights through common law use, those protections are very limited and can be hard to enforce. Worse, someone else could get the registration and send you a cease and desist letter, and now you’re in a pickle. There are many reasons failing to register can be problematic. Check out more about the benefits and consequences in our free eBook.

How to Avoid It:

Getting registration for your trademark with the USPTO is important, but it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. The process involves detailed paperwork and understanding specific legal requirements. It is an application process, meaning you have to be granted permission to have the trademark registered. This is why a trademark lawyer is invaluable— they ensure everything is done correctly and strategically, to give you the broadest levels of protection and  best chances of the USPTO granting you nationwide protection, making it easier to enforce your rights if someone tries to use your name. Plus, it adds significant value to your brand.

Mistake 4: Ignoring International Protection

If you plan to do business outside the U.S., you need to think globally from the get-go. A U.S. trademark doesn’t protect you in other countries, which could leave your brand vulnerable abroad.

How to Avoid It:

Look into international trademark protection early on. There are ways to extend your U.S. trademark rights internationally, like through the Madrid Protocol, which simplifies the process of applying in multiple countries. You need to be aware of trademarks in other countries if you know you plan to expand, that way you can avoid infringement down the road if you expand into more territories.

Mistake 5: Not Monitoring Your Trademark

Securing your trademark is just the beginning. While trademark registrations can last forever, you also need to keep an eye out for potential infringers. It is your legal responsibility per the USPTO. If someone starts using a similar name and you don’t act, you could lose your rights.

How to Avoid It:

Set up alerts and regularly check for potential infringements. Better yet, hire DiAngelo Law and we’ll monitor your trademarks for you using advanced specialized software that scours the databases weekly

Mistake 6: Failing to Update Your Trademark

Your business evolves, and sometimes so does your trademark. Maybe you tweak your logo or expand into new product lines. If you don’t update your trademark registrations, or apply to expand services to reflect these changes, you might lose protection or unknowingly go without.

How to Avoid It:

Review your trademark portfolio regularly and update your registrations as necessary. This ensures all aspects of your brand are covered. 

Mistake 7: Overlooking the Importance of Proper Use

Improper use of your trademark can weaken it. For instance, using your trademark as a verb or a noun can cause it to become generic over time (think “Xeroxing” for making copies).

How to Avoid It:

Use your trademark consistently and correctly. Always use it as an adjective followed by the generic name of the product (e.g., “Google search engine,” not just “Google”). Educate your employees and partners on the correct usage to maintain its strength. Check out our free Usage Guide for more information.

Avoiding these common trademark mistakes can set your brand up for success and keep you out of legal hot water. Remember, your trademark is more than just a name or a logo; it’s a vital part of your business identity and a valuable asset. By taking the right steps to protect it, you’re safeguarding your hard work.

Need help navigating the trademark maze? At DiAngelo Law, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. Let’s work together to protect what you’ve built. Reach out today, and let’s make sure your brand stands strong!

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