How these identifying marks can protect your business or your work.
When naming a newborn, parents today go to great lengths in choosing a name that will make their child distinguishable. They believe the right name is potentially their child’s future. In fact, many parents, obsessed about giving their child the wrong name, shell out thousands of dollars to professional baby naming experts to do it for them. Their hope and dream is that their child will shine for a lifetime and beyond the grave. “If Walt Disney can do it, why can’t my child?”
These hopes and dreams can apply as much to a product, process, service or business as they can to a person. So, picking the name or logo (trademark) of a product or process should be undertaken with the same passion of choosing your child’s name. It will always distinguish the brand, and add to its value, as goodwill grows. In the United States you can own a trademark for almost anything, including smells, colors and sounds, and many businesses, entertainers and artists have used trademark power to their advantage.
For example, when Tim Tebow was backup quarterback for the New York Jets he developed his own prayer stance. When his pose was captured on camera, he realized that someone might use the pose for their profit, so he trademarked the word “Tebowing” to prevent that.
Another well-known trademark example is the phrase, “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble.” Boxing announcer Michael Buffer has made over $400 million since introducing this catchphrase to the boxing world in 1992.
So what exactly is a trademark? It is a word, logo, name, symbol or design used in a trade or business to distinguish your products from the products of others. Then there is a service mark, which is similar to a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes a service rather than a product. There is also copyright, which is a form of protection for literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, photographic original works of authorship and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.
Not everything can be trademarked. For example, when The Apprentice first aired in 2004, Donald Trump tried to trademark the phrase, “You’re fired!” However, he failed because the words are too general, as they are widely used by managers in the day-to-day business practice of firing employees. Regardless, if you were to ask anyone today who owns the trademark for the phrase, most would say Donald Trump.
Obtaining trademarks, service marks and copyrights can be a complicated process. Unless you have nothing but time to learn the application process yourself or have experience dealing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or the U.S. Copyright Office, you should consider hiring an attorney experienced in such applications.
Remember, your business, products, processes and works represent who you are and for what you want to be remembered. Therefore, naming your business, designing company logos and creating works of art are as important as choosing a distinguishing name for your child and trademarking it like Walt Disney.