“Ask Your Attorney” Column
About Registering your Trademark
Dear Counselor: I just came up with a terrific logo for my business that I want to use in all my advertising. I’m going to spend a lot of money putting it on all my stationary, labels, checks, shipping and packaging materials, order forms and advertising. So I wonder how I can protect myself from others taking my idea and using it for themselves.
Dear Client: I totally understand your concern. Businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising, and when you come up with a way to separate yourself from all others through a distinctive logo, label, name or symbol, it is critical to do everything you can to protect it. A “trademark” is a word, name, or symbol which is used to identify a particular product or service offered by a particular manufacturer or from a particular source. It distinguishes the product or manufacturer from other products offered by others. You can protect yourself by registering your logo as a trademark either at the State level or the Federal level, or both. The Wisconsin Secretary of State has a web site devoted to the registration of trade names and trademarks, and for a modest fee ($15) you can register your mark with the State, and the registration remains on record for 10 years. That registration is only effective, though, in Wisconsin. The benefits of a federal trademark registration with the US Patent and Trademark Office far outreach those of a state registration since a federal registration acts nationwide, gives the owner a presumption that the trademark is valid, and carries with it some fairly significant “clout” in terms of the damages that can be imposed upon someone who attempts to use your trademark without your permission. You recognize the need to protect yourself. Now go ahead and do it through the laws available to you, and if you need further help, just give us a call.
John L. Maier, Jr.