Think about the most well-known companies in the world. Nike has its swoosh. McDonald’s has its golden arches. Apple has its, well, half-bitten apple. No matter where you go in the world, these trademarks have the same effect—instantly reminding us of their company and products. Now, that’s powerful brand awareness!

With everything you’ve invested in building your own brand, it only makes sense that you’d want to protect your company from copycats. Trademarking your names and logos help you rest assured that you have the sole rights to your branding. And, if you do find out that a competitor is using your trademark, you have several advantages in court since you registered it first.

So what, exactly, is a trademark? It’s any words, images or combination of the two that are used to identify your organization. It’s a symbolic stand-in for everything you represent: when people see the swoosh, or hear the slogan “Just do it”, Nike comes to mind. Because of this association, a trademark is one of your most powerful branding tools – and one you’ll want to control wisely. Here are the key steps to controlling your trademark.

  • Register your brand with the USPTO. Make sure your name and artwork are original and not already in use. By registering your brand, you also get to use the federally approved ® mark, which stands for “registered trademark”. This will allow you to take further steps if ever needed.
  • Notify the public of your claim. Using the informal TM or SM, or the legal ® lets the public know that you care about your name enough to trademark it, and that you are different from every other organization or company out there.
  • Defend your brand name. Keep tabs on your trademark, so that if you see someone else using your brand name, slogan, or image, you have the legal right to make them stop.
  • Get your trademark registered in other countries. Even if you’re not physically expanding your business or distribution, you want to expand your recognition as far as possible.
  • Get your trademark listed with the US Customs and Border Protection Service to prevent the import of infringing goods.

Is your business the next Nike? Who knows, so why not get started. Check out the Rocket Lawyer intellectual property center to learn more and start a free trial today.