Protecting Your Food Business Name, Brand or Logo: Basics of Trademark Protection

Do you have a great idea for a business name? Have you created a unique logo that’s sure to draw business? That’s great! But before you go live with your website or start printing flyers, there are some things you need to know about intellectual property laws to keep your ideas protected.

What is intellectual property (IP)? In short, it is the right to benefit from the creations of one’s own mind. IP can include inventions, symbols, names, images, shapes, designs and other artwork. Intellectual property can be protected by patents, copyrights and trademarks.

So how do I protect the IP of my unique brand, name or logo? This is normally protected with a trademark. A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies a product or service. It can be a word, name, symbol or device, or any combination of those. A trademark is used in commerce to identify and distinguish your goods and services from those of another business and to indicate the source of the goods -- think the green Starbucks circle, a trademark recognizable worldwide.

Why would you want a trademark? Having a unique mark will tell customers that they are getting your high quality products that they know and trust. For customers that want to buy your product or come to your restaurant again, it will help them quickly identify your brand. It will also prevent other businesses from copying your unique ideas.

Protecting your brand, name or logo through trademark registration will give you the exclusive right to use the trademark, but you must take steps to acquire that protection. For one, the trademark must be distinctive. That is, it must identify a particular product, it must distinguish your mark from other trademarks, and consumers must be able to associate the mark with your product. The more distinctive your trademark is, the more legal protection it will have.

But even if the mark is distinctive, it won’t be protected if it is scandalous, likely to cause confusion, deceptive, disparaging or is already in use.

To learn about how you can file for trademark protection in the United States, check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s page on trademarks.

But ensuring IP protection isn’t something you should try on your own. You will need to consult an attorney trained in IP law to make sure you have correctly identified your IP and that you are taking all steps to protect it. For more information about trademarks or other IP topics, please visit the course section of our website to learn more.

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