Emerging businesses generally take a close look at expenditures, and may view trademark registration as a discretionary expenditure. But, federal trademark registration is cost-effective, providing a lot of bang for the buck for protect brand names. Social media sites will frequently remove an infringing use if the business has a registered trademark for its brand name. But, the situation becomes more complicated if the name is not already trademarked.
Business on the Internet
Many entrepreneurs and start-ups use a brand name to offer goods or services on the internet. Success is a wonderful thing, but success can bring its own set of issues. Competitors recognize success, and often begin to sell goods or services using a brand name similar to the brand name of the successful business.
If the business has not already obtained a federally registered trademark it can be difficult to get a trademark when a competitor is already using the brand name. And, even if the name can be trademarked, it may too late to prevent others from using the name. At this point, most business owners wish they had applied to register their brand name when they began their business.
Social Media and Online Advertising
Online advertising and selling may create common-law trademark rights that provide some protection to a brand name. However, common law trademark rights are not easy to protect, especially when dealing with social media.
The situation is different for registered trademarks. Generally, if a business has a registered trademark, infringement on social media can be solved quickly and easily. The business contacts the social media platform and requests removal of the infringing use. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms have specific procedures for reporting trademark infringement.
If a business can supply proof, in the form of a valid registered trademark, the social media site will typically take down the infringing content. Nothing further needs to be done by the business, and the infringement problem is solved. A federal trademark registration is proof that the business has the right to use the mark, and the right to prevent others from using the mark.
Without a valid registered trademark, social media sites are reluctant to take down the content of a competitor.
Cautionary Tale – based on true events
A business may begin advertising and selling its products on social media platforms. Success happens! Then, a competitor begins using a similar name to sell similar products on the same social media platforms. The business seeks and obtains a federal trademark, and then reports the infringing use to the social media platforms. However, the social media platforms refuse to take down the infringing content, stating that the infringing content was on the site before the trademark issued.
Moral of the Tale: The early bird gets the worm (and the best trademark protection).
To protect a business product or service — obtain federal trademark registration early, before competitors try to divert your business leads.
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