Trademarks, especially in this dynamic digital age, are becoming increasingly important to protect. A trademark is defined as anything that identifies a company’s services or goods and can be a logo, name or slogan. Such a mark identifies and distinguishes a company’s products from its rivals. In the entertainment industry, this can be as diverse as the name of a rock band, through to record companies, film studios, and individual artists.
Sadly, there will always be individuals who attempt to take advantage of others’ success, and trademark misuse is damaging to both the brand itself and consumer confidence.
Protecting your intellectual property
The key to catching violations and stopping them before any damage is caused boils down to a combination of working with the correct legal entity and a healthy dose of common sense. In fact, the biggest takeaway here is that anyone within the industry using a brand, name, or logo needs to ensure it’s protected from the word go. The thing is, your trademark might inadvertently be very similar to one that you’re not aware of. But the first person to have used a trademark has superior rights over any subsequent use of one that might be similar.
The following therefore needs to be considered and applied, preferably well before too much time and effort has been directed into launching any new trademark:
Carry out a trademark search
At the very least this should entail a Google and other search engine investigation into whether or not someone else has already got their sticky fingers on what you thought was a highly original idea. However, if budget allows, a full nationwide search, perhaps through a specialized company, is more thorough. Be aware that even if someone has not filed or procured a Federal Trademark Registration, if it’s proven that they used the trademark prior to you then they have the aforementioned superior rights.
Don’t use weak trademarks
Trademarks fall into four categories:
The most protectable is the first, arbitrary, and includes words that’ve been invented specifically to enter that category, such as Nike and Exxon. Other examples include names of bands; Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. Ideally, a trademark should fall into this category, as it’s the most legally enforceable of all of them.