Protecting Your Brand

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For entrepreneurs and companies alike, building a brand and protecting your brand is integral to becoming successful.  As such, brands and trademarks become extremely valuable assets of a company or entrepreneur, and should normally be properly managed, registered, and protected.  The use of trademarks in print and electronic media should be consistent.

Protecting Your Brand: Basic Trademark Guidelines

Trademark guidelines do not merely apply to a brand owner or the company itself.  Any customers, licensees, consultants, outside vendors, or other third parties should also be required to properly depict the trademark.  Brand owners should police and enforce uniform trademark use guidelines among third parties. This is important in protecting your brand.

For instance, when using the trademark, parties should use proper marking.  If the trademark is federally registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, use the ®.  If the trademarks are pending trademarks or not registered, use TM in superscript.  This should be consistent in printed and electronic media.

Trademark Genericness Can Result from Improper Use and Enforcement

Trademarks should not be used as nouns or verbs or in the pluralized or possessive form.  Trademarks are adjectives and should be used as such.  Non-adjectival uses of trademarks may result in “genericness,” (e.g. Xerox as a verb).  In protecting your brand, avoid claims of genericness by ensuring that the public properly uses the trademark.  Famous examples of public campaigns waged against generic use of trademarks have been conducted by Google®, Coke®, Kleenex®, Xerox®, and FedEx®.

Additional Trademark Best Practices

Furthermore, trademarks should be used in a distinctive manner and work as source identifiers. One way to accomplish this is to make the trademark distinguishable from other text.  For example, trademarks should be capitalized, underlined, bolded, italicized, or used in quotation marks whenever depicted in printed or electronic media.  Doing this ensures that the mark creates distinct commercial impressions in the mind of the consumer and successfully identifies the source of the products, services, goods, or business it represents.  To be considered source identifiers, the trademark must be used clearly and distinctively on the product, containers in which the product is packaged, or on the tags or labels attached to the product.  Similarly, use service marks clearly and distinctively on signs or advertisements offering the services, on letterhead, or invoices on which the services have been provided.

Avoid Naked Licensing of Trademarks

Lastly, enter into licensing agreements with care.  Monitor the licensee’s use of the trademark to avoid “naked licensing” to protect your brand. “Naked licensing” occurs when third parties use the trademark without restriction.  Consequently, the goodwill of the trademark may be damaged if not properly monitored.  It may also lead to the ultimate abandonment of the trademark altogether.

For help protecting your brand, consult an experienced trademark attorney about proper trademark registration, use, and maintenance. This will help brand owners properly manage and police use of their marks within their own companies as well as with third parties.

For more information on this topic, please visit our Trademark Protection service page, which is part of our Trademark Practice.

Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm located in Dallas, TX.  The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights.  The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution.  Additional information about the trademark law firm and its trademark attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.

Klemchuk LLP hosts Culture Counts, a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values with frequent topics about positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values.