How to Prevent Trademark Infringement to Protect Your Brand
Trademarks are vital for brands to stand out and be easily identified by customers. They also provide crucial safeguards against counterfeit merchants and products. With more businesses opening their doors online every day and an increasing number of counterfeit products on the market, it’s critical for brands to take the necessary procedures to register and defend their trademarks.
What is trademark infringement?
Trademarks are similar to brand fingerprints. These distinctive words, logos, emblems, or other design elements assist buyers in immediately identifying the brand a product comes from. Infringement of a trademark occurs when an existing logo, phrase, or other distinguishing characteristic on a product or packaging “is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods” (Overview of Trademark Law).
While there are incidents of unintentional trademark infringement, infringements can occur when counterfeit vendors purposefully mislead consumers into purchasing a product from a genuine brand. This is detrimental to both the consumer and the brand being infringed upon.
How do Trademarks Work?
For starters, there are three key things to understand regarding trademarks:
A registered trademark is referred to as a “monopoly” right. This is because they effectively grant the trademark holder a monopoly over the use of that mark, with no one else permitted to use it without the rights holder’s consent. Trademarks can also be renewed indefinitely (usually every ten years). This means that, unlike copyright and patents, they can remain indefinitely as long as they are regularly renewed.
Rights-based on Jurisdiction
A trademark registered in the United Kingdom only covers the mark’s usage in the United Kingdom. As a result, if you own a fast-food restaurant with the registered UK word mark “Hunter’s Steakhouses,” you may not be able to prevent someone in the United States from opening a chain called “Hunter’s Steakhouses.” As a result, while attempting to register a brand or offer items and services on a global scale, it is critical to consider jurisdiction. It is also crucial to note that trademark regulations vary greatly between jurisdictions.
Rights based on Categorization
When you file a trademark, you are registering the mark within a (or a number of) specific classes. The Nice categorization system has 45 separate classes. There are 32 for commodities and 13 for services. Class 1 covers “Chemicals used in industry, science, and photography…”, whereas Class 43 covers “Food and Drink Services; Temporary Accommodation; Restaurant, Bar, and Catering Services…” As a result, using an identical or similar sign/mark within a different categorization may not constitute trademark infringement. (However, this is still trademarking infringement and should be avoided). When it comes to trademark infringement, all of the following essential trademark characteristics come into play.
What Causes Trademark Infringement?
When a firm successfully registers a trademark, it gains the right to enforce its monopoly on its usage.
When a firm gets aware that another entity is infringing on its trademark, it may initiate legal action.
The corporation may do so for the use of: depending on the nature of the infringement
- a similar symbol for similar goods
- a comparable mark for equivalent items
- a comparable mark for equivalent items
- a similar mark for differing items
There are also more elements that could come into play.
For example, if a trademark has a very strong reputation, it may be enforced in classes where it is not registered. For example, a business utilizing the Apple brand under legal services would very certainly face a trademark infringement complaint, even if the Apple logo is most likely not a registered EU trademark in Class 45.
Identical or substantially similar marks can often coexist in multiple classes or jurisdictions. However, there is always a risk, especially when it comes to larger corporations that constantly pursue their rights.
As a result, it is critical to ensure that new trademarks, brands, products, and services are not subject to charges of trademark infringement. As a result, if you want to launch a brand, product, or service in numerous nations (or classes), it is strongly advised that you seek specialized advice and full clearance for use before submitting an application.
How to Avoid Trademark Imitation
Trademark infringement litigation can be incredibly costly and time-consuming for a brand, regardless of whether they are the ones bringing the legal action or defending their trademark use. Brands must take appropriate preventative actions to ensure that they do not face this difficulty in the future. To ensure that they are not infringing on an existing brand and to preserve their unique trademarks, firms can take the following steps to prevent trademark infringement and avoid it in the future:
Search for a trademark
Before registering your trademark, you must conduct a thorough trademark search. The number of new brands and marketplaces is constantly increasing, and even the most distinctive logo or slogan may already be in use by another brand.
When conducting a trademark search, it is a good idea to first define the market for your product(s). Will your brand exclusively sell products in your home nation, or do you intend to sell to the worldwide market? Are your products going to fill the shelves of physical stores or only exist on internet marketplaces? This can assist you in determining where to begin your trademark search and determining whether you have a strong, distinct brand trademark.
Is there already a product with a comparable trademark? Is your trademark confusing to other brands? These questions will not only help you gain a better understanding of the brands that are doing well in your market, but they will also assist you to develop a brand name and other strong, unique trademarks that will serve as brand identifiers and prevent you from infringing on existing brands’ trademarks.
Register and actively use your trademark
Once you’ve created a strong brand and cross-referenced your logos and branding with existing brands, you’ll want to preserve your branding. Your trademark must be correctly registered in order to be enforced. This ensures that you can address counterfeits if you find them using your brand’s trademarks and is an important step in protecting your original idea.
If you want to register a trademark in the United States, you can use the USPTO. The cost of trademark registration varies depending on the sort of application you file and other considerations, but it normally falls between $225 and $400.
Registering your trademark does not automatically protect your brand. You will still need to keep an eye out online for any potential trademark infringement. This job can be completed manually or with the assistance of a trademark monitoring service such as Red Points.
A competent trademark monitoring service uses technology to automatically detect and respond to suspected trademark infringements around the clock. When a trademark infringement is found, a service like Red Points quickly begins the takedown process. This immediately addresses the infringement and gets to the bottom of the problem, so you’re not left playing trademark infringement whack-a-mole with counterfeiters who return faster than you can address them.
The litigation procedure
When you discover an infringement of your trademark, it is critical that you address it as soon as possible. Infringements can harm your brand’s reputation, and speed is of the utmost when it comes to protecting your brand.
As soon as you uncover an infringement, contact your legal team or go to an attorney who can handle it for you. While the legal process can be time-consuming, legal penalties and punishments can be used to deter scammers from infringing on your trademark in the future.
Removal of trademark infringement
Fortunately, taking expensive and time-consuming legal action isn’t the only option for firms coping with trademark infringements. In reality, it may not be your greatest option for promptly correcting these infringements, as time is of the essence in these circumstances to safeguard your reputation and avoid your brand from being devalued.
This is just another case where a service like Red Points can make the process significantly simpler and more efficient. Not only does the service constantly search for infringements, which means it can identify them almost as soon as they join the online market, but it can also initiate the domain takedown and DMCA takedown procedure for you, possibly saving you time and money on legal action.