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Start Smart: What is the Difference Between Your Brand and a Trademark?

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What is a Brand?

As you launch your business, one of the first things you will do is start developing a brand. At the very beginning, you might focus on things like your company’s name and logo. However, your business’s brand is much broader than that. Your brand is your company’s whole image. It’s what the public sees and believes about your company, product, and services. Over time, your brand will develop to include your reputation and what your customers’ see as your unique value.

When developing your company’s brand, think about the goal: creating a recognizable, symbolic representation that enables your customers to choose your product or service over competitors’. Your brand includes

  • Your company’s identity, personality, and character
  • Its image and reputation
  • And its cultural essence

It is important to remember, however, that all of the time, money, and thought that goes into branding requires protection. Although there are some ownership rights that are inherent in creating your brand, the ability to enforce and protect your intellectual property comes with registration. Without researching your brand symbols and words, it is also possible that your branding may infringe on another company’s intellectual property rights.

What is a Trademark? 

A trademark is any mark, symbol, name, or image that identifies your product. However, a registered trademark is any of these that is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Registering a trademark provides legal protection and ensures exclusivity of your brand by putting the industry on notice of your ownership and enabling legal action against others who use your marks without permission. You can register almost any mark or symbol that identifies your business, services, or products. Potential marks include

  • Brand name
  • Unique labeling
  • Packaging
  • Phrases or Slogans
  • Logos or Symbols
  • Color schemes
  • Sounds, smells, or movements

If someone challenges your ownership of a mark, the burden of proof will fall on your company to show that you started using the mark first in time. Registration is the simplest and surest way to show when you first started using a mark, which is why it is so important to register it as soon as you start using a mark.

Trademarks carry legal weight and have penalties attached to their unauthorized use. This is the main difference between a trademark and a brand. While a company has its brand, or maybe several brands, depending on its services and products, it may own many trademarks for each individual aspect of the brand. Think about Post Consumer Brands, makers of Post cereals and owned by Post Holdings, Inc. This company owns cereal brands such as Honey Bunches of Oats® and Raisin Bran®. Each of these brands (and the Post Cereal brand itself), contain a number of trademarked elements, including the names of the cereals, their logos, and their packaging.

What is the Difference Between ™ and ® ?

Both ™ and ® are symbols that indicate intellectual property ownership. The owner of a mark might use these symbols to put customers, other businesses, and the industry on notice that it is claiming ownership of the name, image, or symbol. However they should not be used interchangeably. ™ indicates that the company is claiming ownership over the mark, but it has not officially registered the mark with the USPTO. Even if a company has submitted a registration application with the USPTO for that mark, it cannot claim the mark is registered until receiving confirmation that the mark is registered. Once officially registered, the company can begin using ®. This symbol indicates that the mark is registered with the USPTO, and the company owns exclusive legal rights to that mark.

Start Smart by Working with The Brand Protected®

If you are building a company and developing its brand, start smart by working with The Brand Protected®. We are experienced attorneys and passionate entrepreneurs ready to help guide you through the start-up, branding, and trademarking process. To learn more about how we can help you protect your brand, click here to register for an appointment. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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