A trademark is a word, tagline, logo, and/or design that identifies the source or brand of that particular item – think Starbucks’ logo or the ADIDAS symbol: we all know right when we see those logos what brand is involved without needing to see either company name. This is a source or brand identifier.
So what the heck does this mean for you?
In plain English, it’s the logo or slogan that tells a consumer that product belongs to a specific company or brand. Businesses use trademarks to protect these logos and slogans, as well as build brand recognition around their primary products. So for Starbucks, of course, we all know that circular logo means coffee! Or for ADIDAS, we all know the diagonal line symbol refers to an ADIDAS product. By registering these marks as trademarks, it prevents other companies from using these marks, OR any mark that is similar to theirs, to prevent consumer confusion as to which company makes which item.
In the online business world, entrepreneurs often wonder if/when they should consider trademarking, say, the name of an online course, a tagline for their brand, or a logo they’ve created. Remember – the purpose of a trademark is really source identification for the customer and brand protection for the company. If what you are considering protecting with a trademark is something vital to your business, like a logo, a signature course name, or slogan that you want to be known for throughout your business, it could be worthwhile to consider starting the process for trademark registration.
Overall, the trademarking process is somewhat slow and could take up to a year to receive protection if your application is approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office. There are a couple questions to ask yourself to better assess whether trademarking is something you’ll want to consider:
How long am I going to run with this particular course/program/name?
If it is your signature course that you want to be known for and plan to promote for years to come, filing for trademark protection of the name could become valuable, as it would prevent others from being able to use the same (or similar) name in the future.
Is this course/name/slogan something people are going to know me by?
There are plenty of coaches with signature courses or programs that people begin to associate with them. If your course is at or is heading toward that status, filing for protection could be a good idea.
Is someone already using this name/logo?
In addition to thinking about using trademark law to protect yourself, we also need to think about the fact that it may already be in use to protect someone else’s brand! It is helpful to do a quick search on the US Patent and Trademark Office website to see if someone is already using the name or logo you are considering using for your company or product. If so, better to change your marketing strategy now, rather than after you’ve spent time and money creating and marketing your brand!
In sum, trademarking a logo and/or tagline for your company could prove to be extremely valuable — to provide you with protection and prevent others from using similar logos or slogans to that of your brand. Once you confirm the name, symbol, or slogan you’d like to use is not currently being used by someone else and you’ve decided it is important enough to your brand that it warrants protection, a trademark can be an extremely useful step in protecting your intellectual property!