During the infancy of any type of business, all founders find themselves asking the same question: should I trademark my new venture’s name? Many question whether it is necessary to trademark the company’s brand name immediately or defer trademark registration until a later date. Some believe that trademarking a company’s brand name may represent too large a cost during the early stages of the business and elect to proceed without a registration. However, few things represent as great of a risk to a growing entity in any field – creative, corporate, or otherwise – than the failure to trademark a company’s brand name at the outset.
Trademarking a business name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides the trademark owner with a number of legal benefits, ranging from potentially everlasting federal protection of the name, to possessing the ability to prevent competitors from using the name for their own purposes.
Additionally, registering for federal trademark protection with the USPTO allows the owner of a business to protect that business’s brand. Imagine if an entrepreneur developed a great new idea for a business and poured a great deal of effort and money into the venture, only to later find out that someone else owned the trademark rights to the new company’s brand name. Such a complication could confuse that business’s customers and target market regarding the new entity’s name and the source of the product or services and could prove disastrous for the entrepreneur.
No one, regardless of fame and fortune, remains immune to the possibility of brand name difficulties. For example, a band at one time named “Hybrid Theory” was threatened with legal action by another band named “Hybrid”. After changing the name to “Lincoln Park”, the band realized that they could not afford the domain name, which led to the name that is today “Linkin Park”. Pearl Jam faced similar growing pains as well, as they were originally named “Mookie Blaylock”. This changed after the band found that they could not legally exploit the name, likeness, and brand of an all-star basketball player. Even the late Christopher Wallace struggled to develop the name of The Notorious B.I.G. after discovering that Biggie Smalls already bore trademark protection by another rapper.
Despite the fact that filing for federal trademark protection with the USPTO requires a greater investment in time and money than obtaining state or common law trademark protection, that investment can yield significant dividends due to the more comprehensive protections that federal registration provides to the applicable trademark owner. Further benefits of trademarking a business name include nationwide protection of the trademark name, together with determent of potential infringers. Oftentimes, a demand notice referencing a federal registration is sufficient to compel would-be infringers to cease and desist from infringing use of the subject trademark.
In summary, federal registration of your brand name by an experienced trademark attorney as early as possible is a prudent move for any growing business – whether you are a tech start-up or a band. Should your products or services prove to be innovative and financially and creatively successful, you should be entitled to own full rights to use your name in commerce and to enjoy the full spoils of that prosperity.