Many business owners and entrepreneurs wonder whether they should trademark their company name. I was one of those people, but once I began researching the pros and cons, the answer was crystal clear. It shouldn’t even be a question for anyone who also wants to protect their company.
First, some background: in early 2015, after we changed our name from AQB to Fourlane®, we promptly applied for a trademark on Fourlane and our sister company, POSWarehouse®. Both names now have approved trademarks, or in this case, “service marks.” A trademark and a service mark really aren’t different. It just depends whether you have a product or service. A trademark — designated as ™ — is used for words, phrases, symbols or designs to identify and distinguish the source of the goods of one party from others. A service mark (using the registered mark or “®”) is also referred to as a trademark, except it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.
Despite the hassle of dealing with government agencies and paying for a trademark attorney to help sort out details, as well as the time it takes to jump through government hoops, here are six reasons why trademarking your name is important.
- It protects against impostors and copycats. With a trademark, your name is legally protected so that no one can duplicate it. A trademark protects ownership rights over the name – a logo, tagline or whatever you’ve trademarked. Once you have a trademark, competitors can’t use your name. If they try, you can take swift, legal action.
- It secures your brand on social media. Customers search for brand names on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites. The social media venues have policies in place to protect you against abuse – someone grabbing your company name and misrepresenting your brand can result in suspending the account. See Twitter’s policies for more information. Our business name, Fourlane, was formerly a web design firm before we took over the URL. To get access to the Fourlane account, all we had to do was change the email address.
- Trademarks never expire. Nabisco Cream of Wheat, Carnation Condensed Milk and Pabst Blue Ribbon all have trademarks over 100 years old. Once the process of trademarking is complete, you’re protected with no pesky renewals. This also means we can sell our trademark if we ever want to do so.
- Trademarks are inexpensive. Depending on the type of trademark you need, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office charges between $225 and $325 per trademark. The minimal fee makes the decision whether to trademark a no-brainer, but remember that this does not include any research or legal fees. I suppose you could avoid engaging a lawyer, but let’s face it; I don’t practice law, and lawyers don’t customize software for business process.
- Trademarks build brand loyalty and evoke pride in our employees. Registering trademarks mean you’re in it for the long haul. This reassures our customers and our staff that we’re committed to the business.
- Trademark safeguard against cybersquatting. Cybersquatters register domain names that are identical or similar to well-known trademarks with the purpose of selling them for a high fee. The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act was passed in 1999 to allow the trademark owner to sue to collect damages from individuals who registered a domain name that is identical or similar to the trademark.
Trademarking may not be for everyone, but just like anything involving the government, the process takes months of research, and there is a long waiting period to get approved. However, I do not regret jumping over any of these hurdles. It’s the cost of ensuring that the business I’ve built remains solid for the long term.
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of Fourlane, a firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments through bookkeeping, tax, software consulting and business process training. The firm specializes in showing customers that they can continue in higher level QuickBooks products as they grow. In her spare time, Marjorie catches up with one of her six sisters, sweats through a morning run, reads a business book or watches the latest AMC show.
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