J. Rohleder Law, PLLC
Empowering Business Sustainability


3 Common Misconceptions about Trademarks

Head’s Up

Here’s the misconceptions covered in this post:

  • If a business is incorporated, it automatically has a trademark

  • Simply using the word/image/slogan gives enough protection

  • I can worry about it later, I’m just starting out

3 Common Misconceptions about Trademarks

A trademark is anything that is used to identify the products of a particular business. And when I say anything, I mean ANYTHING. Words, names, symbols, logos, colors, and even sounds! Those NBC chimes? (don’t tell me you didn’t just hear them in your head right now)

Service marks are similar to trademarks — they just identify services instead of products.

Misconception 1: I automatically have a trademark because I incorporated my business.

If only it was that easy.

Incorporating is registering your company with the state in which it is located or does business. This is a state-by-state registration process.

Say I incorporated “Jennifer’s Pizza Pies Inc.” in Virginia. My Virginia business registration does not prevent one of the other 27 Jennifers in my 3rd grade class from incorporating their own Jennifer’s Pizza Pies Inc. in Pennsylvania.

When we are talking about trademarks, we are talking about federal registration. I want to be the only Jennifer’s Pizza Pies in all 50 states.

Misconception 2: Simply using my brand name gives me enough protection.

Not so much.

Using your brand name/image/logo/etc. will give you some protection. Especially by using the “TM” symbol with the mark. It’s call a common law trademark.

But there’s a catch — it only protects you from someone else trying to prevent you from using the name, and only if you can show prior usage. You cannot use a common law trademark to prevent others from using that name.

You might be saving yourself a filing fee, but you are accepting the risk of potential customer confusion and brand dilution. Plus you also could incur the expense of having to defend your ability to continue to use your mark.

Misconception 3: I’m just starting out so I can worry about this later.

Apparently you like living on the edge. * face palm *

When you are preparing to launch your business, you are picking a company name, product/service names, logo, packaging, and color scheme. Simply put, you are building your brand identity.

And when you start gaining traction and get hit with a cease and desist from another company who believes you are infringing on their registered trademark? Then you have to scrap that brand identity and start all over again. And any of the brand equity you developed is erased.

Have you started developing your online presence? List building? How about incorporating? Or prototype development? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is not too early to start protecting your brand.

Be a Business Rock Star

In life and business, timing is sometimes everything. You will be hard-pressed to start protecting your brand too early. But starting to protect your brand too late can cost you big money.

When it comes to branding and building value in your business, the to-do list is endless. But I can help you prioritize. Download a free Brand Protection Resource Guide. This guide will help you organize and prioritize which aspects of your protection plan need to happen first.

I’m offering a new service, called the Brand Protection Roadmap. It’s a value-packed, guided sprint to get you to a rough estimate of your brand equity and a clear set of next steps. Jump-start your asset protection with only a 30-minute, $149 commitment. And there’s no risk — the price is fully refundable if at the end of the session you don’t feel that I delivered enough value for your commitment.