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Trademarks and your Website

Do you need to trademark your brand? That is a pretty important question that a lot of businesses might have not even considered.

For bigger businesses, trademarks are commonplace. Coke, Apple, Disney, Microsoft or Nike have their name, and by default their brand, securely locked away with trademark protection. These corporations span the globe and they obviously want to ensure that nobody else takes advantage of their name or brand in any way which makes perfect sense; why work so hard only to have someone else take advantage of it?

If you are a small or mid-sized company is it important to protect yourself in that way?

The Internet is Global

Often when we consider our business, we only see it in relation to the area we service or sell in. If you have a New York based business called “Banarama” that provides services to the tri-state area then you more than likely are not concerned with the rest of the world.

However, just because you are using a name in your area, doesn’t mean someone else isn’t using it on the other side of the country. Or it might even be someone just down the road launching a new business that thinks “Banarama” is the perfect name to encapsulate who they are and what they have to offer.

It might not be a malicious use intended to steal business or something similar, although that does happen quite often online. Even if you operate Bananarama.com out of New York and someone else operates Bananarama.net out of California it could cause a brand identity issue.

Understanding Trademarks

A trademark is a symbol, word, words, images or anything else used to represent a company or product that has been legally registered for ownership. While it is not mandatory to do so, the advantages of doing this are notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership, legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and exclusive right to use the “trademark” mark in connection with the goods or services listed in the registration.

Of course it does take time, effort and money to obtain a trademark.  But, once you have completed the process you are in a better legal position with your brand to protect yourself even online.

So how do you protect your Brand?

Once you have your trademark you are then in the driver’s seat, especially online. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is promoting the use of the “Trademark Clearinghouse” which will allow the holders of trademarks to implement protection of their brands which is important when you consider the release of all the new gTLDs being released into the wilds of the World Wide Web.

For those not aware, gTLD stands for generic top-level domains which allows for things such as “.GIFT”, “.DATING”, “.TOKYO”, and “.VOTING” to name a few of the most recently delegated gTLDs that ICANN has allowed.

ICANN has developed a process to alert owners whenever a domain matching the trademark passes through the system which then allows the rightful trademark holder a chance to claim their brand. This in essence would protect you, or at least give you the opportunity, when some company out of Canada is looking to snap up “.BANARAMA” to use for the invention they are creating.

Those who can afford it can also take it one step further by hiring a Brand Protection System or company who then scans the web for sites infringing on your trademarked name. The resulting information can then be used to determine which sites present the most risk and need to be notified of trademark infringement.

The Bottom Line

Your brand is who you or your company is. It is your identity that typically has been built from hard work over time and it not easily replaceable, especially if it is a good one. It makes sense to consider the idea of not only obtaining a trademark to protect yourself, but then to also take steps to ensure that you enforce that trademark. This will help protect the name you worked so hard to create, even if it is something as minor as another business that doesn’t even compete against you.

After all, what if they have gotten horrible Yelp reviews? You wouldn’t want your name associated with that, would you?

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