If you are a new business owner, you might not understand intellectual property completely and everything you might need to protect to benefit your business. For instance, you more than likely have seen a symbol of trademark before—™ or ®—but maybe you haven’t really thought about what a trademark protects.

Essentially, a trademark protects a word, symbol or phrase that identifies a unique product name, company name, logo, sales slogan or marketing phrase.

Examples of trademarks

Some common trademarked brand names have become so ubiquitous that you may not even think about them as such. For example, Kleenex is a trademarked brand name for facial tissues and Chapstick is a brand name for lip balm.

When it comes to trademarked sales slogans or phrases, most people remember Nike’s “Just Do It” mantra or when Wendy’s became known for its “Where’s the Beef” commercials. In those examples, those trademarked phrases became so tied to the company that launched them, people still instantly connect them.

Why trademarks matter

Trademarks matter because if your company is the inventor or manufacturer of a product with a unique name, that you plan to market extensively, you want to protect that name. You want to use it, for customers to know it and specifically look for it. You don’t want another business to use it too, taking away some of the value you have put into establishing the value of your product.

The same principle applies to company names, logos and slogans. Would Starbucks Coffee be OK if a smaller startup started using its name and logo on their products? No.

Steps to getting a trademark

If you are considering getting a trademark for your business, the first step in the process is to do a trademark search. You want to make sure the product name, company name or advertising phrase you want to trademark isn’t already in use by someone else.

You also want to consult an attorney with experience intellectual property law. An attorney can help you navigate these trademark-related issues:

  • what specifically you should trademark
  • if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will consider what you want to trademark specific enough to be granted the registration
  • what to do if someone infringes upon your trademark

Having protection for your company’s intellectual property is an important step for any business owner. When you have the proper trademarks in place, you reap the benefits of customers easily finding your company and brand in a crowded marketplace.