Registering and Protecting Your Trademarks in the Houston Area
Skillful litigation for plaintiffs and defendants in infringement cases
Brand identity is a valuable business asset, and as such, deserves protection. When another company uses your distinctive design, tagline, or symbol, your market share is threatened due to consumer confusion or dilution. Conversely, if your company is accused of infringement, you could lose your right to use a meaningful trademark in which you are deeply invested, simply because of a passing similarity to another. When these types of controversies arise, you need knowledgeable legal counsel from an experienced trademark attorney. Paul Van Slyke has practiced trademark and branding law for more than 30 years. He is a nationally recognized authority on intellectual property.
Safeguarding your business by protecting your trademark
At common law, a design, slogan, or symbol gained trademark protection when it was distinctive and it was generally associated in the public’s mind with the goods or services of a particular company. The trademark protection could be nationwide or limited to an area where the public recognized the mark and the associated company.
Today, you can apply to register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This gives other businesses notice of the existence of your mark and your intention to defend it. Advantages to USPTO registration include:
- A legal presumption of ownership of your mark and the exclusive right to use it
- After five years; registration, the conclusive legal right of exclusive use after filing an affidavit
- Public notice of your ownership of the mark prevents others from gaining common law rights
- Preferred right of expansion under your brand names throughout the country
- Listing in USPTO’s database to be used by PTO to refuse registration of similar marks
- Ability to record your mark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prevent the importation of infringing goods
- The right to use the registered trademark symbol ®
- Standing to bring an infringement lawsuit in federal court
- A basis for obtaining priority trademark registration in foreign countries
The USPTO only allows companies to register marks that are:
- Not likely to cause confusion — If a similar mark already exists, you cannot register yours if it is likely to confuse the public about the source of your goods and services. The USPTO looks to see whether the sound of the mark when spoken, its appearance, meaning, and commercial impression are too similar to those of another mark, and whether the goods and services the marks represent are closely related.
- Distinctive — The USPTO considers trademarks as either strong (and worthy of protection) or weak (and not worth protecting). “Fanciful or arbitrary” and “suggestive” trademarks are considered strong because there is a level of creativity that sets them apart. “Descriptive” or “generic” trademarks, such as “creamy” for a brand of yogurt or “television repair service” for a company that fixes TVs, are too weak to merit legal protection.
Before you register your mark, the USPTO requires you to conduct a search for similar marks. There are several other details to your application, so it’s important to consult a knowledgeable trademark attorney.
Litigating trademark infringement lawsuits
When confusion in the marketplace is inadvertent, it’s sometimes possible to negotiate a mutually beneficial resolution, such as granting trademark rights within a limited geographic area. But when trademark infringement is a deliberate attempt to profit by producing inferior, low-cost, look-alike products, a company must aggressively litigate to protect its intellectual property rights.
Contact a nationally renowned trademark lawyer in Houston to protect your rights
Attorney Paul Van Slyke has the knowledge and experience to advise your company on trademark protections and represent you in infringement actions. To schedule a consultation with Paul Van Slyke, call the firm at 855-552-8238 - Toll Free Number or contact the firm online. We have offices conveniently located in Houston and Austin, Texas.