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Protecting your uniqueness in a new business

When you are starting a new business in California, there is so much to think about. One thing you will probably have to do is advertise -- which means, you need to know how to present your business. That is why creating your brand or trademark is one of the first steps in your business planning.

You need your business to be unique even if you provide the same type of services as another business. You will probably want a logo, which can be creative or plain, depending on your style. Before building your logo or tagline, you should do your research first to be sure you are not infringing on another business' brand or logo. This will prevent any infringement claims from another company down the road.

Do I need to register my mark?

It is not required by any trademark laws that you register your mark, but if you want to cover your bases and protect your mark from being used by another company, the answer is "Yes." You can register your mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is inexpensive and can be well worth it if any issues come up. An attorney can assist you with this.

What is the difference between a trademark and a service mark?

A trademark is used for promotion of products or goods, such as cosmetics. A service mark is used to promote a service, such as pet grooming or carpet cleaning.

What are steps I can take to protect my mark?

Monitor your competitors. You can do occasional searches on the Web to make sure competitors are not copying your tagline, design or colors. The length of time a mark is used is often a big decision-maker in a claim against infringement, so monitoring should be done routinely.

If you see infringement, take action. If you are monitoring regularly, at the first sign of a possible infringement, contact a trademark attorney. He or she will send a letter to the company with your concerns. If there is no reply, they will follow up with a "cease-and-desist" letter. If the company still does not adhere to the request to stop using your mark, your attorney can take further action, which may include a civil suit.

Source: Chron, "How Can a Businesses Protect Their Brand & Trademark From the Internet?," Jason Gillikin, accessed March 22, 2018

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