Trademarks are common as companies make efforts to stand out in competitive industries. However, in this pursuit of differentiation, some businesses may take inspiration from a competitor’s creative assets. These actions risk infringing on the trademark of the business that registered the concept with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Trademark infringement cases can be complicated, which is why companies should work with an experienced Texas trademark lawyer from Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC. Read below to learn some of the basics of trademark infringement and what legal options are available to businesses with a registered trademark.
1. A trademark may be a word, phrase, symbol, scent, color, or design.
Many individuals assume only certain creative assets such as logos or slogans can be trademarked. However, companies may register a trademark on almost anything that distinguishes one business from another. Company names, words, phrases, logos, scents, and even sounds can also be trademarked. Essentially, trademarks allow consumers and businesses to distinguish the goods and services of one source of ownership from those of another.
2. Trademark registration is essential to protect against infringement.
There are 45 different classes in which an individual or business can register its trademark, including 34 classes for the registration of goods and another 11 classes for services. Although there are requirements from the USPTO that determine which marks are eligible for registration, companies may register trademarks in multiple classes for both goods and services. The registration process may be complicated, but a registered trademark serves as an appreciating asset for a business over time. Additionally, the federal registration of a trademark contributes to a company’s credibility, helps the business stand out to consumers, and provides an avenue to sue in federal court if it needs to defend its trademark rights.
3. There are several courses of action to deal with trademark infringement.
When an entity believes trademark infringement has taken place, another organization has likely caused consumer confusion related to the source of origin for the registered goods and services. Businesses with registered trademarks have several different avenues to ensure their trademark rights are not violated. In many cases, a company sends a cease and desist letter as one of the first courses of action of a trademark violation. This letter, composed by a trademark attorney, alerts the infringer of their violation of another organization’s trademark rights and states they must immediately cease any usage of the trademark in question. If a cease and desist letter is not effective, trademark owners may also establish a claim of trademark infringement and begin litigation.
4. There are also different options for trademark infringement remedies.
In many cases, a business adjusts its practices and discontinues the use of the trademarked asset after receiving a cease and desist letter. If a cease and desist letter does not stop the infringement and a company litigates, there are several different remedies a business may achieve at the end of the legal process. In cases where the infringement is severe enough to go to federal court, remedies may consist of injunctive relief, damages, costs, and attorney’s fees in exceptional cases. These remedies may not be applicable in every case, however, and a business should discuss all of its legal options and remedies with a trademark attorney.
5. A trademark lawyer can protect companies from trademark infringement.
Although trademark infringement may be inevitable in a densely competitive industry, many businesses avoid this legal challenge with help from a knowledgeable trademark lawyer. A timely and correct trademark registration overseen by an attorney ensures a company is prepared to address possible infringement in the future. Additionally, a trademark lawyer guides a business through the process after trademark infringement has occurred, including drafting and sending a cease and desist letter or proceeding with litigation.
Trademark infringement may have severe consequences if it goes unaddressed. And although it may seem tedious to register with the USPTO or work with a trademark attorney to send a cease and desist letter, these simple actions save companies from costly long-term expenses. Businesses can rely on the Texas trademark lawyers at Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC to address any concerns related to trademarks. Contact our team today with any questions related to Texas trademark law or infringement.