Trademarks identify the source of a product or service. They include business names, logos and slogans, as well as product names. While they are usually names and designs, they can also be comprised of sounds, such as the NBC or Intel chimes. Registering a trademark allows the owner to exclude others from using a trade name that is confusingly similar to the trademark. (trademark examples below belong to actual clients, click on images to visit their websites)
A trademark usually belongs to the company who has been using it longest. Therefore, prior to marketing a new brand name, it is wise to investigate whether it is already in use. A trademark search uncovers more than what is readily found using internet search engines. It also includes perusing both federal and state trademark databases looking for any previously registered trademarks that look or sound similar to yours.
The most common and most effective way to protect your name and logo is through Federal Registration at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federal Registration allows the owner of a trademark to seek statutory damages and attorneys fees against an infringer. It is also possible to file an Intent-to-Use application, securing rights to a name or logo before it goes on the market.
Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks may be registered by state as well as federal government. State trademark registrations are inexpensive and are sometimes the best form of protection, depending on the type of business and its goals.
Trade secrets include research into new products, client databases, pricing, business know-how and other confidential information. There is no process for registering trade secrets. However, various methods may be used to minimize the risk of their divulgence and to maximize the penalties paid by the parties responsible Arranging these methods requires knowledge and understanding of how to use the law to best protect a business’s important confidential information.