Common Trademark Issues Most People Don’t Know About
Most entrepreneurs have a decent basic grasp of trademark: it protects your name or tagline and keeps other people from using it, and you should get one sooner rather than later (usually within the first two years).
But, when it actually comes to getting one, there are some stumbling blocks that are surprisingly common. Most people don’t realize that a trademark must EXACTLY match the way you’re using it in commerce. Here are the three design-related problems I see most frequently:
Over-and-under vs. left-and-right:
Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur with a focus on travel, and your logo is a globe with a banner that shows your company name underneath. On your website, in order to better fit across the top, the globe is on the left and the banner stretches out to the right. The globe is the same, the words are the same; the only difference is the positioning. That shouldn’t matter, right?
Unfortunately, it does. If the positioning is different, those are technically two different marks. Many clients have this problem, especially when mobile-friendly website designs get involved. So, what can you do? We can guide you in deciding the most cost-effective solution, whether that’s trademarking both or just choosing one to leave unprotected for now.
Sometimes you have a logo within a logo. Think of Starbucks: their original logo had the mermaid with the word STARBUCKS underneath. Now, their logo has just the mermaid without the words. Those are two separate marks, even though one contains the other.
What if you have a similar situation? What if you have a logo that you sometimes use with the name of your company (or your tagline, or whatever) and sometimes use alone? The most cost-effective choice will depend on how often you use each mark, how thorough you want your protection to be, and how many lines of business you’re in (Tom Jones’s… Heating & Cooling? Plumbing? Electrical?).
Multiple colors or styles:
When you think of the trademark for apple – the apple with a bite missing on the right-hand side – what color do you picture it in? The original logo, if you remember that far back, had bands of color that went from green (at the top), to red (in the middle), to blue (at the bottom). But now, the mark usually appears in black or white (depending on its background).
Let’s say you have a similar situation – a shaded blue-and-black logo that stands out nicely on a light background, but a pure white version you use on the parts of your website that have a dark background. Or, your mark is a name/phrase, but you use a cursive font in one place and a simple font somewhere else. You now know those are two different marks… does that mean we need two trademark applications?
Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s possible to file for a mark without regard to color (for drawings) or style (for text). If you don’t change anything else about the mark, it may be possible to file just once and protect yourself.
So, as you can see, Trademark is full of nuance, and having a good Trademark lawyer will help you navigate situations that can arise. Argent Place Law seeks to meet you at your needs – if you need help filing for a trademark, we can help you with that; if you would rather learn how to do it for yourself, we have regular workshops to help you with that as well.
Entrepreneurs are going to save the world, and Argent Place Law wants to help. That’s why we are a team of entrepreneur-lawyers serving Entrepreneurs just like you. Think how great it will be to have a legal team with entrepreneurial experience on your speed dial so you can call us up and say, “I’m applying for a trademark, what do I need to prepare?” Call Argent Place Law to find out.