As we move into a more digital landscape, it is becoming a necessity to ensure your intellectual property is as protected as it can be.
This is by far the most essential thing that I can express to you about securing your intellectual property. Once you register a trademark, your ownership of that trademark will show every single time someone does a trademark search. Anyone who is thinking about registering a logo or mark that is similar to yours must THINK TWICE. This will save you money in the long run. The biggest secret in the law industry is that it is always much cheaper, in the long term to do something right the first time. The expensive horror stories with lawyers' invoices running up to the price of a brand-new house usually occur when someone puts things off or tries to cut corners.
The added benefit of people knowing that a trademark belongs to you means that the validity of your business is further established as well and any rip off brands will be diminished. Say, for example, if someone was trading under a company that incorporated that Instagram logo into their branding. If during the usual course of business, you began to question the authenticity of the market you are dealing with, a simple trademark search could end up saving you. It is a commonly undervalued but effortless and free way to pick up on apparent fraudsters.
The most important reason that you want to have your name pop-up on a trademark search is that without it, people will claim that you have no right to the trademark. People will use your brand/logo, sometimes doing actions which hurt your brand. If it comes to that, this can prove fatal to start-up businesses who are unable to shake the bad press or allegation of copying a later brand who uses the original intellectual property.
2. A Registered Trademark adds value to your brand.
One thing you should always remember when starting a business is how you are going to leave that business. I know... it sounds morbid to think about that, especially before things start to go south, but the statistics show that one the most significant ways you will make a return of investment is from the eventual sale of your business. Therefore, you can never start soon enough to make your business look desirable to potential purchasers.
One of the critical things that people look for when purchasing a company is whether that company has tied up its intellectual property. If not… then what is the point?
I had a client that was purchasing a restaurant on the waterfront, and the seller of the business had not yet signed a new lease nor trademarked his brand, his logo or even attempted to protect any residual copyright rights for any of his intellectual property. My client, eager to get started, went ahead and signed the lease and underwent the trademark registration before the sale had even completed. My advice to him…if you have the intellectual property, the lease and a registered trademark then what exactly are you even purchasing from the seller? My client, being the good person that all clients undoubtedly are had no intention of negotiating a reduction in the price and was just over keen to start his business. But I do think had someone more ruthless decided to purchase the restaurant, then there was not much the seller could have done when the demands for a significant reduction in the purchase price was made.
That is why you should register your trademarks as soon as possible as you never know when sharks are circling your business ready to make an offer.
Trademarks can be applied to your products as well
3. You can protect your business logo from being used by others.
It sounds obvious but does not get said enough…when you start a business, your business logo is the very face of your brand. You cannot afford to lose it. If someone else takes it and uses it for their own business, not only will you be losing countless potential new customers that go to this new business, but you will let confusion form as to who is the valid owner of the intellectual property. If this emerges and the belief starts to establish that you are an intellectual property thief, then all the goodwill in your business that you have worked so hard to believe in will vanish overnight.
By registering your trademark, you will also enable your lawyer to write 'cease and desist' letters too. While there is nothing technically stopping you from writing these without them, the registered trademark is the threat you include in the cease and desist, without it, when people read threats regarding intellectual property, their default reactions is …if you want it... come and take it. Which unfortunately is a lot harder to do if you haven't registered your trademark. It is a lot more expensive, as well.
Once again, this also boils down to the idea that if you cannot control and protect your intellectual property from being used by others, then the value of your business is lower accordingly. Imagine if Google or Nike couldn't protect their logos, and any person could start a business using the Nike logo... the value of Nike would plummet. Which is why these companies spend so much money protecting their intellectual property.
4. You can stop a rival business from registering a trademark over your logo.
This point does follow on from the previous in that being able to defend yourself and protect your trademark is so important and the cost difference between defending yourself against a trademark infringement lawsuit and registering a trademark is enormous.
Trademark and patent trolls exist, it is a sad fact of life, and there is nothing that you can do to stop them from existing. However, you can make sure that your intellectual property is protected as much as possible to form what I liked to call a "turtle-shell' defence. Predators might still test the safety of your trademarks; however, if it is hard enough, they won't be able to break it. The turtle analogy is a very apt description of your business's intellectual property as it is the basis on which your business can grow under, and a registered trademark is one that protects your business as a whole. Also, you can use it as a defence against sharks...
Think about it for a second… what is a business… is it the company cars? Is it the employees dutifully bound by their contracts… is it the coffee machine that serves warm brown nectar from heaven at 7am in the morning? Or is it the thing that makes your business different from the competition. There is a good chance that your definition is a mixture of all the above. If that's the case when it comes time to sell your business, how exactly do you sell or put value to the fact that you can do something differently?
For many businesses, that 'thing' is their intellectual property. So, when it comes time to sell your business, there will be an assumption that the intellectual property will be included in the sale. Once they realise that you don't own it, it will most likely go one of two ways, they will attempt to negotiate on the purchase price, or they will try to take the intellectual property. Either way, these are expensive messes to fix up and something you don't want to have when the sale of the business is 30 days away.
However, on the other side, if you had all you metaphorical ducks in a row and had everything registered not only is this one less headache for the potential buyer of your business, but it also presents a more vigorous formation of what your business is.
6. You can license a registered trademark.
The licensing of trademarks is becoming more and more common as companies start operations in multiple countries or as franchising becomes the most common form of business purchase. Licensing properly can help grow your business however if you do not own the rights to your trademark then how do you enforce unwanted use, how do you ensure that the fees which you charge for licensing are actually worth anything? The answer is simple, you cannot. Registering a trademark is the way you can protect a brand. Further, by licensing your logo, this creates a further revenue stream for your business.
7. Trademark registration can be shown on your Balance Sheet.
This is more of a tip for bookmakers and business owners that run their own books. Still, it is so much easier to show income on your balance sheet related to your trademarks/intellectual property once you have registered it. By registering you are quantifying something that exists in the digital space entirely. It's the equivalent to writing it down onto a piece of paper for the first time, you make it EXIST. From that any profits, losses, expenses, windfalls can be noted against this real thing.
8. You can protect your intellectual property anywhere in the country that you have registered your trademark.
Aside from inside the EU, trademarks registrations are locked to one country. If you want to protect your intellectual property outside of your first country, you will need to make sure that you register in your trademarks with you. THIS IS RELATIVELY EASY AND CAN BE DONE AT THE SAME TIME YOU REGISTER YOUR FIRST TRADEMARK. There are global agencies such as WIPO which make this process relatively easy and any good Intellectual Property Lawyer worth their salt can get this done for you;
If you aren't ready for the international protections, a trademark registered in your country will provide you with protections anywhere in your country. The benefit of this is if you are in New York, people can't just go to Los Angeles and start-up an entertainment business using your intellectual property. Which is precisely how Hollywood was started. However, thanks to the benefit of commercial airlines, we probably won't see another Hollywood start-up elsewhere due to intellectual property thieves.
Also, with the power of video calling, there's a good chance you wouldn't even have to leave your bedroom, let alone your city to enforce this right.
9. You can gift intellectual property in your Will.
A morbid thought to have but one that is ever increasingly relevant. Who will take on your business when you die? If you are the owner of a trademarkable logo, who do you want to be able to use it. If you actually have an answer to that or have a response somewhere along the lines of … 'someone I guess' then you need to think about this. Just like you plan you will you need to plan your intellectual property estate one you die or else it could become anyones.
10. Trademark Registration is surprisingly cheap.
Trademark registration is a relatively inexpensive process, especially for the value that you get in return for your registration. Sometimes it's the price of a couple hundred dollars. Over the course, the life of your business a couple of hundred dollars can save you and even earn you much more than that if you were to register it instead.