Trademark is (for me) a fascinating area of law, and I always enjoy helping clients get their trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Along the way, I’ve noticed a few questions that tend to get asked a lot, so I thought I’d devote a blog article to answering trademark frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Can I Trademark a DBA?
A trademark can be anything that serves as a source identifier – if someone sees it in relation to your product or service and thinks of you, then you have a trademark. If you use your DBA in your marketing and have built a reputation around that name, then you can apply for trademark protection.
When Should I Register My Trademark?
There are several different theories out there on the best time to register. Some say register immediately to make sure no one else tries to use your mark. Others say to wait until your trademark has been in the market awhile so that it has some value and is worth protecting. I tend to fall into the second camp – registering a trademark is expensive, and the process is easier if you have lots of proof that you’re actively using the mark in your marketing. Given that, I feel that in most cases, it’s better to focus on getting your business off the ground first and work on registration once you have some traction and a bit of money in the bank.
If I hire someone to create my logo, who owns the trademark?
Excellent question! With trademark, it’s use it or lose it. If you’re using it in commerce and the creator is not, then you have the rights to the trademark. The courts don’t care who created it, only who uses it. However, the creator may be able to claim copyright ownership, so make sure you have an agreement that specifies who owns both the copyright and the trademark.
Can I turn stock art into a logo?
Technically yes, but I would be concerned that it wouldn’t be a very good source identifier since someone else could easily use the same stock art in their business. Additionally, there may be copyright issues if you don’t have permission.
When Do I Need a Trademark?
If you’re in business, you should have some kind of source identifier to build your brand around. It could be as simple as your company’s name, and in most cases, that’s what people start with. But customers need something they can point to, so they can tell their friends to buy your product.
If you have a trademark faq, you are welcome to email me at [email protected].
Ed. note: Kelley also has a video page on her website and a YouTube channel, which may be of interest to BAIPA members.