After a lot of soul searching and naming discussions, you finally have a new name for your next product line or service offerings. Now what do you do, realizing of course from the naming process itself all the rights had in some of the names you considered.
While it is almost intuitively obvious that for a new company name your first step is to go down to the county business office or the secretary of state to register a business, for many it is really not obvious what you do with product names for protection. So here are some recommended steps:
- Use it properly from the start. Put a small TM next to the name (or SM if you prefer for Service Mark), especially the first time you use it on a website, box, wrapper or brochure. In the small print below, put a statement XYZ is a trademark of ABC. You are then putting the world on notice that you claim trade rights in this name. (Hopefully you properly checked first that no one else in your industry has made prior claims or you are potentially in big trouble.)
- Alert all your marketing, creative and production people about the name and its proper usage.
- If you are able to secure a matching domain name, claim it and point it at the right place on your corporate website.
- File for a registered trademark as soon as you have the mark in use, with the USPTO. While you can do this yourself nowadays, a lawyer is recommended for this to make sure you get the paperwork right and the best possible coverage. Similarly with other agencies in other countries. (See International Trademark Offices). This will take a while to get approved, but it is the filing date that is important.
- If you are not going to use the name publicly for a few months, you should file an Intent to Use trademark application instead.
- Plan a proper product launch. Brochures, coffee cups, T-shirts, press releases, show announcements, trade show demos, etc. go a long way to getting the word out loud and clear. This not only promotes the new product line or service offering, it also helps to establish the name as a product brand with specific usage date stamps.
- Study what the big guys do. Have you looked around your kitchen? Read a box of cereal carefully and notice where the TM’s and ®’s appear and what it says in the “mouse print” below.
- Decide on a specific logo, font or at least look and feel for the name. Later you can perhaps trademark the logo too, just like company names.
(*) It is strongly recommended that you do not register any domain names through your web hosting company – so they can never hold your website hostage and you can move to another hosting service (or even bring it in-house) at any time. Similarly, you can change domain registrars without having to change your hosting company.
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