Here’s How To Trademark Something The Right Way

Trademark law doesn’t make the process as easy as you might want it to be. Let’s say you have an idea for something big, something important, something that could make all your wildest dreams come true. You have intellectual property, and you’d like to ensure it remains yours. How do you go about protecting it before you can show it off? Is it even possible? What steps can you take to dissuade others from trying to take what’s yours? These aren’t easy questions, but here are the basics of trademarking your idea, logo, or brand the right way.

The marathon from concept to trademark application to trademark licensing can be excruciating, because believe it or not–people do have the same universal ideas. It doesn’t help that the ideas that get trademarked almost always rely on simple foundations. A common shape, a pair of common colors, or a three word phrase you may have heard a hundred times before without even realizing it. Even though you might fail to get it licensed on the first try, first you need a single concept. If you’re making a logo, make a basic sketch of what you’d like. What kind of symbol are you looking for?

When you’ve answered that question, the next step is looking at the trademarks that already exist. Laws stipulate that you can’t copy someone else’s trademark. That much is obvious. But trademark court can also deny your idea if it can be easily confused with an already existing trademark. Don’t worry too much about that. Even if your first idea fails, you have wiggle room. Adjust a couple of things, and voila–you have a whole new trademark possibility. Because actually sifting through the database of existing trademarks is time-consuming and difficult, you’ll probably want a trademark attorney to help you through the process. It’s worth the financial strain at the end of the day, and you might need this kind of professional later anyway.

Common shapes include circles, squares, or stars. Many trademarked logos use animals–or paw prints for example. When you choose an idea that will likely have already been done a thousand ways already, you need to make it visually dissimilar from all the others. A paw print might face in a different direction, have claws or not, or have a different number of pads, different shapes, and different colors. A lot of clawed paw prints use cats as the animal blueprint, but the University of New Mexico went a different route and used a wolf instead. Take your time and be creative.

Apply for the trademark license as soon as you can. Just because your idea isn’t ready to go to market, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready with your branding. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that an idea that you had will be stolen. If that happens before you trademark the idea, then you’re out of luck. Once it’s been trademarked, the rules fall firmly in licensed individual’s favor.


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