Does your small business have a trademarked name, slogan, or other piece of marketing language? A trademark can be a great way to protect your brand and your ideas. However, a trademark is effective only if you take the time to protect it. The U.S. Trademark Office isn't going to monitor your trademark for you. If you don't take action to monitor and protect your trademark, then it's almost as if you don't have a trademark at all. Fortunately, there are at least three effective steps you can take to easily monitor your trademark and keep it unique to you:
Set up an online alert system. Perhaps the easiest and most effective step you can take is to set up an alert system on your favorite search engine. Nearly every major search engine has this functionality. You set up a news alert for your trademarked language. Then if that language appears anywhere online, you get an email alert. Some uses could just be coincidental and others may be legitimate uses of your trademarked language, so you'll need to research uses before you fire off cease-and-desist letters. Still, though, you'll at least be aware if the trademarked language is appearing anywhere online.
Use a monitoring service. Of course, your trademark may be so valuable that you want more in-depth coverage than just a news alert. In that case, you may want to hire a monitoring service. They'll watch online just like a search engine alert system. However, they'll also monitor trademark filings to see if anyone is attempting to trademark any language similar to yours.
They can also advise you on whether to pursue a cease-and-desist or whether a usage is legitimate. If you need to take action, they can help you do so, or refer you to an experienced trademark attorney.
Hire a trademark attorney. It's possible that you may find someone using your trademarked language and you send a cease-and-desist letter, only to find out that it is the other party, and not you, who has the senior, legitimate claim. That can be frustrating and can do serious damage to your trademark.
Instead, work with a trademark attorney from the start. They can help you determine whether your name or slogan is unique and whether you have legitimate claim on the trademark. They can also help you with all paperwork and make sure that your trademark application goes through without a hitch.
For more information, talk to a trademark lawyer in your area, like one from Altman & Martin. They can help you protect your name, slogan, and other branding language.