How Failing to Protect Your Trademark Can Result in Catastrophic Reduction in Customer Value
By Jonathan Page, Esq., Managing Attorney at InPrime Legal
A great way to protect your valuable business assets is by registering your trade name with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). This process helps stop competitors from using your name and good reputation to obtain benefits and damage your enterprise.
Simply using your business name in commerce does afford you some rights. However, formally registering a trademark — a “word, name, symbol, device, or any combination” — secures additional protections:
- It puts consumers and your competitors on notice that your trademark belongs to your company and can only be used to identify your goods and products (and not similar goods and services).
- Through formal registration, you also gain the ability to sue for trademark infringement in federal court, collect additional damages and request an injunction to stop someone else from using your trademark.
Case Study of Copycat Company
Unfortunately, one of our clients recently learned the lesson of not protecting a trademark the hard way. A local residential and commercial painting company with gross annual revenues of $2.5 million discovered that a former employee had opened a competing business in the same market with an almost identical name. We’ll call this enterprise “Copycat Company.”
With a similar name in the same business in the same market, Copycat Company was driving 10-20 Internet leads per month to its website. With an average annual customer value of $3,500 and a 60% conversion rate, we calculated each lead to be worth $2,100. These figures translated into a loss of $21,000 to $42,000 in new business each month for our client.
To compound the problem, our client had begun receiving complaints of poor craftsmanship from local residents based on the work of Copycat Company. Now, in addition to Copycat causing a dramatic reduction in customer value because of lost leads, Copycat’s existence in the marketplace was negatively impacting the goodwill of our client, too.
Our client had never registered a trademark with the USPTO, so recourse was limited. However, we still managed to stop Copycat Company short of litigation and settle the dispute in a way that prevented Copycat Company from ever using our client’s name again or confusing consumers. At least our client was only out of the lost business revenues, but a registered trademark would have given us even more leverage in our negotiations.
More on Trademark Registration
As you can see, registering your trademark with the USPTO is highly advised for several reasons, and InPrime Legal can help you through that process.
But your work regarding your trademark doesn’t end when your application is approved by the USPTO. Although the government agency does attempt to fight trademark infringement when it can, protecting your trademark — your very business — is almost entirely up to you. You can’t rely on the USPTO to keep track of countless trademarks in its registry. If you’re not watching, a competitor could swoop in and cause a lot of damage to your company and brand.
To summarize your action steps:
- Strongly consider filing an application to register your trademark.
- Once you have registered your mark, set up a process to keep tabs on — and taking action against — anyone who might infringe on it.
Contact us any time for a consultation, and to learn more about “Protecting Your Trademark” and the InPrime Legal program at:
Office: (770) 285-7785
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