Do’s and Don’ts: Trademarks “Register Now, Don’t Wait!”
The quickest way to identify someone’s product is by their logo or their packaging design. This is why it is important for companies to protect their marks and identifiers by registering their marks. Companies spend millions of dollars on making their products unique. They understand that it is easier for consumers to identify a company’s product by their logo and the familiarity of a product’s design. So, companies solidify their goods and services with their trademarks and service marks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office states that the purpose of a TRADEMARK is to “protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce” and a SERVICE MARK is “a word, name, symbol or device that is to indicate the source of the services and to distinguish them from the services of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms “trademark” and “mark” are often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.” There are criteria and requirements for registration that you should be aware of that we cannot possibly get into in this short article.
So why are trademarks and service marks important to the average artist, band, or independent label or any company in the entertainment industry??? It’s simple…you, your group or your company represent a brand or a product…hopefully a good product or service and you should want your good or service to be identified by your name. Thus your name is important to you and should be protected from someone else stealing your good will (the name you’ve built up over the years or your reputation) or placing your image or name on their product and services.
As many of you reading this column, may be first generation businessmen and women, you need to know how to sustain a successful business and that some things, like registering your business marks, are not something you want to skip over and come back to later. From the artist’s perspective you have to remember that there are millions of other aspiring artists around the globe and many of them may have thought of the exact same band name or stage name that you have.
That brings me to another point. Now, if two people with the same unique band name, doing similar types of music and marketing to the same crowds, both begin to have some commercial success and then become aware of the other artist using the same name…who’s going to win that name battle? Who’s going to have to change their name at that much later point? How much money is it going to cost you to re-brand yourself? How much are you going to have to pay an attorney to get this straightened out? After a name change, how will your followers and fans identify you? Think about the same scenario using companies and labels. As an attorney, I would begin by wanting to see registration papers from the patent and trademark office and dates of when and where each person began using the name. But this is the exact problem that I want to teach people to avoid. Register soon, don’t wait!
You may consider getting a local trademark, or one in the state where you are located if you don’t plan to expand beyond your current location, but if you see expansion, national recognition, or franchising then you should register your mark for a federal mark. Registering your mark(s) puts others on notice of your mark. Registering in a timely manner may qualify you for a larger recovery and attorney fees in the event of an infringement action, or if someone steals your name or produces counterfeit copies of your product. Local filings are often cheaper than the federal filing and seeking advice from legal counsel who is knowledgeable in intellectual property is important. Savvy business men and women know the importance of protecting their names, their products and their services: you don’t want someone else living off your name! REGISTER NOW, DON’T WAIT!
Written by: LaQuita R. Stokes, Attorney at Law of Corbin Johnson, PLLC
Visit www.wedoentertainmentlaw.com for more contact information.
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