At the June 19 Women’s Initiative meeting, attorney Matthew Saunders of Saunders & Silverstein in Amesbury (www.massiplaw.com) conveyed highly relevant information about trademark law.
Saunders reminded us that almost anything that tells the consumer something about the source of the product or service can be a trademark, including a name, phrase, logo, or color (think UPS brown). He pointed out that for trademark purposes, a name that doesn’t directly describe the product or service is stronger. Kodak is a good example.
In the US, trademark protection begins with use, rather than registration. Although it’s a good idea in many cases to register your trademark, federal law protects any trademark being used in interstate business. The longer you’ve been using it, the stronger your claim. Saunders said the registration application process is fairly straightforward, but if trademark issues come up with regard to the application, your company may need an attorney to resolve them.
Reasons to register a trademark include:
- Assurance to investors or potential buyers that you’ve protected the company or product name.
- Firmer ground on which to “police” any individuals or companies trying to infringe on your product or company name.
- Avoiding having to prove “use” in the event of a court case. If your trademark is registered, the burden is on the defendant to prove they are not infringing on your trademark. In all cases, infringement is based on whether or not the consumer might become confused between the companies or products.
The July 17 Women’s Initiative meeting will feature Debra Crosby of Conquest Creative Media talking about “elevator” speeches.