A trademark is a creative, unique, identifying symbol that helps the end user to identify a product or service. The symbol can be a word or design, or both.  There is no mistaking the McDonald’s big yellow golden arch or the Nike “Swoosh”. These marks have become so synonymous with their brands that the company is immediately recognized without any description needed. Much as music is sometimes unconsciously plagiarized, the development of a mark in an office by the company brain trust, the logo that you’ve spent time and money developing, can sometimes look like an already existing brand’s logo. Now, what do you do?

One option is to decide whether the marks are different enough for your organization to try and to register.  Secondly, make modifications to avoid similarities. Doing a visual comparison should be the very first stage of the comparison. Rather than trying to have the mark development team make the decision, find some outside sources to review both marks (or others) and see and hear what they have to say. That feedback alone can be the deciding factor in your brand development. There may be multiple companies that have a similar logo. Include those in the impartial review process.

You may also find that you have been copied. If you have already launched your planned mark, you may notice that another company has developed and is using something similar to yours.  It can be not just the design mark, but also the wording and the fact that the goods or services of the other company are too similar to what you provide. You may have grounds to dispute the usage.

The only thing limiting you will be your own creativity or the creativity of your team. Develop something that resonates with your company and potential customers. Then start the research process to see if you’ve mistakenly redeveloped something that already exists.

You’ve gone through the research process, had your informal focus group review it and now you’re ready to move forward. Just how do you register a mark? The first step would be to log into the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Review their guidelines to register your mark and follow the steps to submit your design or name. They also have a free search tool to look for similar marks. Be sure to use that tool too since their search engine is focused on marks currently in use or being adopted by other companies and the public is legally considered to be aware of any mark filed in the USPTO.

In the end, do your homework. Make sure you are researching what has been developed and that you unknowingly using someone else’s idea. The work that you put into it before you move forward may save you a lot of time and money in the end.

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Posted in: Intellectual Property - Trademarks, Trademark

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