Protecting a brand is akin to protecting the company’s image, work and reputation. Business owners use these brands to convey the vision behind their products and services and once consumers and media pick up on the brand, it can already be hard to forget. But while businesses know the value their brands bring, not all know when and how to protect them. There are two ways to do so: trademark rights and common-law rights.
Trademark: when and how do I start?
A business owner should file a trademark registration application before they get their business up and running. Better yet, as soon as you decide on the brand name, logo and design, you should start preparing for the application. Note that you should file your name and logo trademark applications separately, usually starting with the name first.
To register trademarks in Kentucky, a business owner may file an application with the Secretary of State. Trademarks are effective for five years and business owners may renew them within six months before the expiration date.
How can a registrant know if their trademark is still available? The office of the Secretary of State maintains a searchable database of trademarks and service marks registered in this state.
Common-law rights: use it or lose it
A business also protects its brand through its actual, consistent use, which is known as common-law rights. Under this protection, actual and consistent use of name and logo is important because otherwise, it is as if the company abandons its rights. Moreover, if the company does not use the brand consistently, it decreases its power to distinguish one from others.
Whether it is through trademark registration or actual use, it is crucial for business owners to protect their brands. This can alleviate worries such as competitors registering a similar mark and causing confusion between businesses.