Trademarks are among a company’s greatest assets. Trademarks help drive product recognition and corporate identity. A trademarked name identifies a product, and with the passage of time it may even become synonymous with those qualities imbued in the product. The name Coke for example is recognized around the world and when people see it they immediately associate a taste with it. In a sense then, the Coke name is more valuable then the patented formula that creates it…people see and make a connection with the name – the patent is for the most part invisible and immaterial to those who buy it. This is also true for NightStar flashlights. NightStar no battery flashlights have become synonymous with reliablity – their most defining and valuable characteristic; NightStar’s patents however are of little interest to most people.
Trademarks have several other distinct advantages over patents. Perhaps most importantly, trademarks are easy to defend. If another product uses a name that’s pronounced the same as your product – regardless of spelling, and it has the same classification as your product (for example both products are lighting products) then your trademark has been infringed and the other product will have to change its name. Another advantage trademarks have over patents is that they’re easier to obtain. Once a trademark has been submitted to the PTO (Patent and Trademark Office), it will probably take a year or less to receive a response. If a professional trademark search was conducted prior to submitting the trademark, it’s highly likely that the response from the PTO will be favorable and your trademark will be granted. On the other hand, it may take years for the PTO to review and analyze a patent and to ultimately render a determination regarding its validity. Trademarks are also far less expensive then patents. The cost of a trademark is around $1400, which consists of an $800 fee for a professional trademark search plus $400 for an attorney to properly complete the appropriate forms and a PTO filing fee of $100 and $200. By comparison, the cost of a thorough patent search combined with the cost of a professionally written patent document can easily exceed $15,000.
Trademarks unlike patents however, must be used or they will be forfeited. A trademark must appear on your product and / or on the product packaging and the trademark must be used within 1 year after receiving the mark. Trademark extensions can be filed but the limit is typically 6 months to a year.
Trademarks should be considered early in the development of any product because a trademark will impact marketing and manufacturing. A product’s trademarked name should be easy to remember and it should match an available website domain name – this will greatly enhance all future marketing efforts. In the world of manufacturing, injection molds and product packaging artwork can only be completed once an available name is found. Jump on it fast and remember that a trademark is one of the most valuable assets your company can own!