Can you start a business without a trademark? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it depends on what you want for your business. How much protection do you want for the products and services you provide? How much growth do you anticipate and who are your competitors? Ultimately, if you’re planning to expand your business outside of your local area, you’ll want to protect your work.
This article will provide you with the reasons why you should trademark your business and resources to help you get the process started. (For a more in-depth look at intellectual property basics as they relate to start-ups, check our post here.)
Can You Start a Business Without a Trademark?
A trademark is meant to protect your ideas and company assets. Starting a business without a trademark isn’t recommended, and here’s why:
Trademarks protect your brand—and everything involved in marketing it.
Your brand assets can include but are not limited to the following:
- Business names
- Specific color schemes
- A product or service unique to your business
So, what happens if you go to market without a trademark? You’ll get limited protection based on where you operate. This means that you won’t be able to enforce your intellectual property rights outside of a specific geographic area. Ultimately, you and your business will be left vulnerable to brand theft.
Deciding to Register a Trademark
The advantages of obtaining a trademark for your business far outweigh the disadvantages. Below are just a few examples of both:
- It protects your brand–even internationally: A registered trademark protects the name of your business, your logo, and any taglines you use. Your competitors can never use any of these assets. If they do, you can take legal action.
- Builds customer loyalty and trust: Current and prospective customers will recognize your trademark and they know they are getting authenticity when they purchase your products.
- It protects your brand on social media: If someone creates a page using your trademark, just prove that you have it registered, and their created account will be suspended.
- Adds business value: If you ever decide to sell your company, you will get a higher dollar amount compared to a brand that has not been registered. Potential buyers will feel more secure knowing that they are obtaining and can retain a reputable brand.
- You have first right to the domain: If someone else owns the domain name for your business, you can file a request to shut it down.
- It’s worth the cost: Obtaining a registered trademark is inexpensive, and the ROI you receive continues to increase your revenue.
- The process is lengthy: Not everyone has the patience to wait for their trademark. Between the paperwork, reviews, submission, and approval, you will invest a lot of time and energy and wait more than a year until your trademark is finally approved.
- The process is complex: Dealing with the government policy can be difficult, with many layers. The entire process has many components, so you may have to wait a year or more to obtain your registered trademark.
- Opportunities for others to dispute: Anyone, including your competitors, who thinks you do not have the right to a particular brand name or logo. In the end, you may have to spend more money for legal fees to defend your untrademarked brand.
When you’re starting a business, we get that you want to get up and running (and profitable) quickly. However, taking the time to research your company name, all its brand assets and protecting the overall brand is worth it. Not only do you better protect your business, but a trademark helps develop brand loyalty and adds value to your business—now and in the future.
Author Bio: J.D. Houvener is the founder and Patent Attorney of Bold Patents Law Firm, a trusted patent law firm. He has 10 years of experience in the industry and focuses on helping inventors gain access to world-class patent services to protect their visionary ideas and improve the world.