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Brand vs. Trademark: What’s the Difference?

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Avoid The Brand Versus Trademark Confusion

When starting a small business there is a lot to consider. Arguably, one of the most important decisions to make is how to present your brand. This is how your company will be recognized by the general public. Your brand name (not to be confused with the terms “brand” or “branding” which we will explore in a later post) and trademarks are assets to your business. Often times brand names or trademarks become interchangeable with the product – for example Kleenex (the brand) is often used to represent a facial tissue (of any brand). Although these two terms are used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Therefore, it is important to protect your brand’s intellectual property to avoid the brand versus trademark confusion.

What is a Brand Name?

A brand name is the name that identifies your specific company or product. Brand names are often how a company becomes recognizable to consumers – and are valuable good will asset to a business. In some cases, a brand name becomes part of everyday vocabulary to mean the generic product. For example, Q-tip has become synonymous with cotton swab, or Band-Aid is universally known to mean bandage.

The goal of a brand name is to create a recognizable name and logo for your company or product. When you own a recognizable brand name, consumers will want to purchase your product or utilize your services instead of generic. Your brand name will have a perceived value that only YOU can provide. A brand name does not provide any legal protection, however, or allow your company unlimited rights to use the brand name or logo. That is where a trademark comes in.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a mark or trade name that is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A trademark can include an identifying name, logo, slogan, sounds, or colors that uniquely identify your company or its products or services. A trademark’s purpose is to provide legal protection. When a company registers a trademark with the USPTO, the company will be able to initiate legal action against others who use the brand name without permission.

So why is it important for you to know the difference between brand names and trademarks? Well, if a business is using a brand name without legal protection (i.e. a registered trademark), it is holding out to the public that this is the name and/or logo that will be associated with the company and its products. This may actually infringe on an existing mark that is in fact a registered trademark. Before registering a trademark to protect your business’ brand, it is important to do due diligence to ensure that you are not infringing on someone else’s registered trademark.

Consult an Experienced Trademark Attorney

Navigating the trademark research and registration process can be complicated. It is important to consult an intellectual property attorney to assist you with every step of the process for protection of your brand.

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