X Marks the Spot: The Importance of Trademark Law for Business Owners
Treasure maps in fictional stories always seem to mark where the buried treasure is with an X. Imagine if someone gave you a map, not your technology enhanced sidekick that provides voice instructions ten feet after you pass your turn, but an actual map that you were able to hold in your hand. The person that handed you the map provided absolutely no instruction as to what you are to do. So what next? Follow the steps to reach the “X” of course. Trademark law, though a little more complex follows the same general concept.
A good understanding of what trademarks are, the benefits trademarks can bring to a business, and the importance of protecting trademarks, are all imperative to any business owner.
So what exactly is a trademark?
Trademarks are often used as source indicators that identify where certain goods come from. A trademark can be a word, name, symbol, or even a distinct color that distinguishes goods and services from one seller to another. Service marks fulfill the same purpose as trademarks, except they identify and distinguish the source of certain services rather than goods.
What do I need a trademark for?
Besides its base purpose of distinguishing goods and services, trademarks can also be licensed to exploit the good will of a business or brand. Over time, your trademark will become associated with your brand’s reputation and provide a consistency in your products or services. Although a trademark owner is free to grant a license to use their trademark, it is imperative that the quality control of the goods and services sold under the trademark by the licensee is maintained.
I have a trademark. What next?
A lack of control over the use of a trademark may lead to a loss of significance of the mark. This failure to exercise quality control over how a particular trademark is used is called “naked licensing”. Naked licensing can result in a mark losing its function as an indicator of a quality and controlled source. This lack of control can be seen as inherently deceptive and can constitute an abandonment of any rights business owners have in the mark.
Unlike other areas of intellectual property, trademark protection does not expire after a certain term of years. As long as trademarks are used in accordance with the class they are registered under, and are renewed every ten years, they can be used to protect your brand. When licensing trademarks, it is a good practice to express not only contractual control over a particular mark, but also implement policies to exert actual control of the use of the mark as well as control of the goods or services associated with that given mark.
Although patents make up the majority of intellectual property law, trademarks are arguably the most publicly recognizable area of intellectual property law and should be treated like treasure; after all, the brand of your business depends on it.
Hiring an attorney familiar with trademark registration and infringement litigation best prepares business owners for the process of trademark registration and maintenance of trademark protection thereafter. For all of your trademark needs, contact Gerald Chichester at 770-957-3937.
Smith, Welch, Webb & White, LLC, is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia with expertise in a wide range of areas of law. We have an uncompromising commitment to our clients and community. Our team of experts will be more than happy to provide exceptional service to you, your family, or your business today!
Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
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