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Trademark and brand protection for small businesses

How Trademarks Help You Build Your Brand

brand protection trademarks Feb 07, 2022

Every business owner wants to “have a trademark”.

In our modern business world, the ownership of a trademark in your niche can be powerful for your success and growth in your space. This applies whether you have a brick-and-mortar shop, an online business, or anywhere in between!

Small business owners often get scared that someone bigger, more well-known, with more resources, may come along and take what they have created.

Nobody wants their idea stolen.

Nobody wants their thoughts taken from them before they can get good traction out of it.

Protection is the Goal

One of the problems I see in the discussion surrounding trademarks is that the focus directed towards business owners isn’t about PROTECTING a trademark, it’s about registering it. The focus is on the tangible “thing” a lawyer can do to help you protect your mark.

The thing is: you don’t have to register a trademark to own it. You certainly don’t need to have a registered trademark to protect it.  To have a valid trademark, all you need is for the name, phrase, or symbol you choose not to be the same as or “confusingly similar” to a mark used by anyone who is currently operating in your space.

Now, don’t get me wrong, registering a trademark IS a good thing. It provides strong protections and, when used properly in your business, can provide some serious help as you work to protect your brand. In fact, we do a lot of work at Gatehouse registering trademarks.

But, when isolated to a trademark registration and the piece of paper saying you have done that, it doesn’t necessarily do much. If all you do is put that paper in your drawer, why do it at all? You already own any trademark you use in your business.

Legal isn’t a checklist for you to do. Legal is a PART of the foundation of your business. So, if you register a trademark, you need to know why you are doing it. And, more than that, you need to know WHAT to do about it once you HAVE that piece of paper that says it’s done.

Why Do Trademarks Matter in My Business?

Trademarks let people know what they are getting. The goal with any trademark is for people to KNOW what to expect out of a product or service without any other information. Basically, if someone sees your trademark associated with something, they understand what that means. They have already associated it with your brand, and they know what to expect. For better or worse.

That is what your trademark can do for your business.

Trademarks matter to your business because brand loyalty is developed around your business. It is about more than your trademark, but your trademark lets everyone know it’s connected with the brand they know and love.

Trademarks aren’t the same as your brand, but your trademark is a huge part of how people see your brand.

Think about it - There are some brands, all things being equal, that you will pick up off the shelf because it means something to you. You have connected with that brand. Now, you haven’t connected with the trademark. The trademark simply lets you know the product you are holding is associated with the brand you trust.

Even if the product is new (or new to you), you trust it because you recognize the trademark.

It isn’t the trademark you trust, it is the BRAND behind it.

This is true for children’s toys, food products, home appliances, and other products. We gravitate toward the brands we trust. The trademarks used by those brands let us know we can trust the product (because we know who made it).

A good trademark doesn’t make your product. You have to build a brand to do that. However, if you have a distinct, recognizable, trademark, people will know the product is yours and they will trust it because they trust your brand.

This, again, is why I love trademarks so much. When we talk about trademarks, we are talking about the legal protection of the thing you are working to build.

  • You build your brand.
  • You design a trademark to let people know your product (or service) is associated with that brand, and
  • You use legal to help you protect that trademark (and the strength of your brand).

Legal only works if you are doing the other things necessary to build your business. Legal works

  • with your business plan.
  • with your marketing.
  • with your brand development.

Legal is about giving you a foundation as you grow and is an integral part of the development of your business.

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