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You Have a Registered Trademark: Now What?

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You have heard it a thousand times before: your brand is your business, and it needs to be protected (if you haven’t heard this before, check out our Beginner’s Guide to protecting your brand). So, you did it! You registered your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You’ve even received confirmation that your trademark is yours and yours alone. Congratulations! That is the most important part of brand protection. But what now?

Although registering your trademark is a key step, there are other steps you can take to protect your brand after the registration process is complete. Enforcing your trademark, monitoring your brand, and creating contracts will prove vital in growing your business and protecting your brand. Your brand is hard-earned, so read the information below to learn more about what else you can do to protect it.

Monitor Your Brand

You registered your trademark in order to protect your logo and branding. Trademark laws prohibit companies from infringing on registered trademarks and preserve the trademark holder’s legal right to sue an infringer. However, infringers are not always interested in following the law, so it is important to proactively take steps to protect your brand in addition to having a registered trademark. One relatively simple step you can take right away is using the registered trademark symbol ®, which serves as a public notice that your trademark is registered. Once you have registered your trademark, you can use this protective mark on your products, packaging, website, logos, and other materials.

Another straightforward step to take is to record your trademark with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This agency monitors imported goods to protect U.S. based companies from infringement. If CBP finds an imported good that unlawfully bears your trademark, they will alert you if you have recorded your trademark with the agency.

Monitoring your brand online is another way to protect your trademark from infringement. This kind of monitoring should be ongoing and can help you identify possible infringement early. Then, you can take action to stop the infringement sooner rather than later. Monitoring your brand is time-consuming and can take time that should be spent on growing your business. Hiring a firm to conduct monitoring efforts on your behalf can save you time, effort, and personnel hours. Additionally, these monitoring efforts can save you money by identifying infringement as soon as possible so that you can avoid taking further revenue losses enforcing your trademark in litigation down the road.

Keeping It Confidential

Contracts are an important legal tool for any business. Confidentiality agreements, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and other types of contracts can protect your brand by specifying each party’s rights and responsibilities. These agreements can also help ensure that your vendors, employees, and partners are not misusing your intellectual property. Business contracts can be tailored to meet your business needs while protecting your brand. For example, a Confidentiality Agreement with your employees or anNDA with your vendors can protect your trade secrets and preserve your brand rights. Likewise, a carefully crafted partnership agreement can specify when others are allowed (and not allowed) to use your logo.

It is especially important to have a tailored contract if you are licensing another company’s branding. Licensing deals can be a great way to grow your business, but they often require sharing logos, branding, and other intellectual property with another company. If you have a licensing agreement with another company, you will need to ensure that your business is not held responsible if that company infringes on another trademark, copyright, or patent. An experienced intellectual property attorney can help protect your business by adding trademark indemnification clauses to such licensing agreements. Such a clause can protect your business from being held legally liable (and from paying for attorney’s fees) if your partner is accused of trademark infringement.

With the right contract, you can confidently move forward with deals such as:

  • Licensing your logo to another company
  • Creating a partnership/contractor agreement
  • Drafting a Confidentiality Agreement for your employees
  • Drafting a Non Disclosure Agreement for your vendors
  • Creating sales agreements that meet your needs

An experienced attorney can create the right contract for you and make sure that relevant contracts protect your intellectual property rights.

Protecting Your Brand Internally

Most businesses focus solely on protecting their brand from infringing competitors. While that is an important concern, it is also important to consider brand protection within your own company. If you have employees, or plan on hiring employees as your business grows, there are steps you can take to ensure you are protecting your intellectual property from internal misuse. Generally, when an employee creates a product, solution, content, or other deliverable as a part of their employment, the company owns the intellectual property rights to that product. The employee does not own the rights unless the company and employee have a contract stating otherwise. Enforcing that ownership is vital to brand protection. Sometimes, employees will claim they own a product they created for the company, and then sell that product on their own or under the company’s name without permission. Of course, that can lead to loss of revenue for the business, loss of personnel, and a potential legal battle.

One way to protect your brand internally is to create an employment contract that specifies intellectual property ownership rights in writing. This kind of contract can also specify if and when your employees can use your brand or logo. Having a contract with your employees is a proactive way to be transparent about your expectations as the employer and clears up any future confusion right away. A lawyer can draft an employment contract that ensures your intellectual property stays within the company. Further, an experienced attorney can create a similar contract for your independent contractors. Since these contractors are not employees, it is especially important to clarify how they can use the marks when creating deliverables for you.

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