Has another business (or even an individual) used your trademark without your authorization? If so, you must decide to what extent you should defend that protected trademark. There is no universal answer to this dilemma, but there are a few factors to help you decide how to proceed. Here's what you need to know about these.
1. How Valuable Is the Trademark?
Your company's main trademarks are widely used throughout operations. They are a major part of your brand whether it's established or new. It's usually worth pursuing even to the point of litigation. However, what about a trademark related to a small part of your operation, like a single product? How much you want to invest in defending this varies, but you can always start with low-cost legal tools before deciding.
2. How Unique Is the Trademark?
Trademarks are meant to be unique enough to be easily identifiable with their owners' businesses. However, some trademarks are somewhat generic. If yours falls in to the latter category, it can be hard to defend in litigation. And defending it may not be a wise investment. In some cases, crafting a more unique trademark that's easier to defend may be the better choice.
3. Is the Trademark At Risk?
Failure to defend a trademark can result in its dilution as a unique part of your brand. This is bad for your business in general because it makes customers confused and can lead to lower sales. But it can also put the actual trademark at risk if it becomes too broadly used to curtail any longer. If that happens, you may even find that you have the protection you do now.
4. What Is It Being Used For?
Limited use of copyrighted and trademarked business elements is allowed under U.S. law. Some examples of fair use might be noncommercial use, parody and criticism, advertising, and the use of some descriptive terms. In essence, you'll generally find it much more productive to sue a competitor selling products with a similar trademark than you will a school using it in class.
5. It There Reputation Harm?
Businesses must consider not only the current or likely financial harm by infringement but also their reputation. You could see outsized damage to your business name even by an infrequently-used trademark if it becomes associated with drugs, illegal activities, scandal, or political turmoil. In these cases, you may need to shut down the use just to protect your reputation.
Where Should You Start?
Some of these questions are hard to answer. And they often lead to other questions. The best place to begin is to meet with a business litigation attorney in your state to learn more about trademark infringement. Make an appointment today to get help making the best call.
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