What Entrepreneurs Should Know About Trademark Laws

The basis for solid entrepreneurship is a great idea. Problems run rampant in modern society, and humans are always up to the challenge of finding unique and valuable solutions to them.

Other times, inventors take already established products and twist them, the result becoming something completely fresh. And if the market dictates that this spin on the average item is in demand, the entrepreneur will want to trademark it as their own.

If the commodity being sold has taken on its meaning from an original label, then secondary meaning trademarks are vital for protecting that product.

This article will discuss the nuances of trademark law. When are trademarks necessary for your brand? What are some things that can’t be trademarked? And can an original intellectual property be trademarked, too?   

Do you need to trademark your brand?

The simple answer to this question is an emphatic yes. Trademarks are vital to protecting how your product is marketed, bought, sold, and advertised to the public.

If Starbucks didn’t trademark their signature frappuccino brand of iced and blended coffee beverages, any other coffee shop could knock off the product and sell it as the same thing.

Other blended drinks sold from other restaurants and businesses are similar, but they must be marketed differently with an unorthodox approach.

McDonald’s sells eerily similar desserts that are titled frappes, but they have different logos and titles because they cannot infringe on Starbucks’ trademark branding.

Trademarks don’t protect inventions, ideas, or novel artistic expressions; instead, they focus on preserving an entrepreneur or business’s commodity’s symbols, logos, and branding.

Suppose you are a brand new entrepreneur trying to break into a market dominated by corporations and conglomerates. In that case, you must carve out your niche and differentiate yourself with branding that is protected by a trademark.

If you have started your own line of shoes, there is nothing novel about that item in and of itself. You must find a spin on something universally sold, like footwear, and design unique names and logos to represent the product.

What are some things that can’t be trademarked?

Trademarks can’t be placed on things for how they operate or how they are idealized. Trademarks are strictly used for how an entrepreneur wants to mark their products through symbols and branding.

You can’t copyright completely generic symbols or logos, though. For example, if you were to take or draw a picture of a tree as your logo for your lawn care company, there would need to be something definitive in the symbol that makes people tie that drawing to your business.

Add some colors to your logo that normally would not make you think about a tree. Writing the initials or the name of your company on top or below the symbol would automatically make it very easy to trademark as opposed to unnamed artwork.

You can’t trademark the item or product itself because that has nothing to do with branding most of the time. The lawn mower that your lawn care company uses is not trademarked, but the logo of your company placed on the lawn mower is trademarked.

Trademarks cannot infringe on somebody else’s already existing or established business. If the design of your trademarked property is too similar to another entity’s work, they may have the legal right to take action against you or your company.

Try to keep whatever you do as original as possible if you don’t want the headaches that come with claims that you are stealing someone else’s work.

You may want to do your research into other company’s logos. For instance, if you’re in the auto sector, look up auto symbols. If in doubt, try something else.

How do trademarks relate to original intellectual property?

You do not place trademarks on original intellectual property. The protection that you can legally grant your actual intellectual property is called a copyright. But what is original intellectual property, and how does it get copyrighted?

Anything that the owner creates artistically is subject to being copyrighted. Pieces of literature, a song, a painting, or any other similar creative endeavor are granted copyright protection from the second it is put down in a tangible format. You are not given copyright at conception unless it is transported to a physical structure.

There is also the issue of work-for-hire copyright, which is when an artist is hired to create content for a company and they don’t get to retain the legal belonging of the work. There must be a clear negotiated agreement beforehand making it clear to both the publisher and the contractor who the work belongs to before it is resold and distributed.

These concepts differ from the aforementioned trademark discussion because copyrights are used for entirely new expressions of ideas. You would not copyright a shirt you are selling because you did not come up with the original idea of wearing clothes on your body to remain decent in public places.

You would trademark the logos and designs on your shirt that have already been associated with your business in the past. You would not be able to trademark the physical shirt, though, because it is an item that has no outright differentiated factors without the branding on the front of it.

If you have come up with a new concept that changes the way the shirt operates, such as what it is used for, and it can be marketed as something that was invented, this is when you can place a patent on the product.

Patents are reserved for inventions and the permission to market the use of an invention by someone else. They have everything to do with how the item functions and nothing to do with how it is marketed.

Whether you are preserving a brand, an invention, or another piece of artistic property, it is vital to know which type of legal protection you need and will be entitled to. Protecting your ideas and your creativity is one of the most important factors in success in a modern capitalist society where everybody is trying to gain an advantage. Study and safeguard your ideas legally.

Shawn Laib writes and researches for the legal and insurance site, FreeAdvice.com. He is passionate about safety and security related to business owners and their properties.