As an Authoritative Content publisher, you’re investing time and money into developing a brand that promises useful, relevant, credible, and trustworthy content to audiences. Your brand has value and builds equity every day. Just like businesses need to protect their brand assets, so should you.
What is the brand name of your website, online magazine, or online content? First, you should trademark both the name and the logo (if you use one), so you can protect them. Imagine how horrible it would be if you spent years building your brand name and then one day you receive a cease and desist letter from another person or entity who holds the trademark for that name.
If the person has a valid, federally registered trademark and that trademarked name is used in a similar business to yours, there could be confusion in people’s minds. They might not realize that the two brands are owned by different people or entities. Since you didn’t protect your brand name by trademarking it, you’d be found guilty of violating the other person’s trademarked property. That means you’d need to change your name. All of the work and money you’ve put into building your brand will be lost. Imagine all of the incoming links, Google search rankings, and traffic that you might lose to your website if you have to change the name and URL.
Once you do secure a trademark, you need to understand how and when to use the trademark symbols. You’ll use your trademarked name on your website, in your email signature line, in marketing materials, on letterhead, and so on. Do you need to put the ® or ™ or ℠ symbol after the trademarked name every time you use it?
I get this question all the time and always give the same answer, which I learned from corporate attorneys during my tenure in marketing departments of Corporate America—as long as you use the symbol the first time the name appears in a document so it’s easy to see, you’re covered. It gets too cluttered to use the symbol every time a trademarked name appears on a web page, in a brochure, and so on. However, people worry that they have to use the symbol (and put their trademarked name in all caps) every time they use the name.
To further explain the legalities of trademark symbols, I asked intellectual property attorney, Kelley Keller, Esq. of The Keller Law Firm, to answer a few questions. You can read the full interview on Forbes. Following are some of the highlights from the interview.
When to Use Trademark Symbols
“There is no requirement to use the TM or SM symbols and their use has no legal significance, but it is wise to do so. Use of the federal registration symbol, however, is regulated by federal law. You may only use the symbol with a federally registered mark and as applied to the goods and/or services listed in the registration. While you are not legally required to use the symbol, failure to use it is not without consequence. In an enforcement action, you will forfeit your right to recover lost profits and money damages unless you can prove the defendant had actual knowledge that your mark was registered prior to the infringing activity. This can be a very high burden and one unnecessary to bear.” — Kelley Keller, Esq.
How to Use Trademark Symbols
“In written documents—articles, press releases, promotional materials, and the like—it is only necessary to use a symbol with the first instance of the mark, or with the most prominent placement of the mark. It is a common misconception that each and every instance of the mark should bear a trademark symbol. Overuse creates visual clutter and may detract from the aesthetic appeal of the piece. Provided there is at least one conspicuous use of the TM, SM, or ® on the face of the writing, do not be afraid to eliminate superfluous markings.” — Kelley Keller, Esq.
Read the rest of the interview on Forbes.com.
Image: Kazuhisa Otsubo