Trademark Protection: What Every Small Business Owner in Florida Should Know
The Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that there are three million small businesses in Florida. As a small business owner, your brand matters. Trademark rights are a key part of a brand. It is a common misconception that trademark protection is only really available for large companies. In reality, many small businesses can benefit from formally registering their trademarks. Here, our Florida trademark registration attorney provides an in-depth guide to the key things that all small business owners should know about trademark protection.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a unique sign, symbol, word, or combination of these, used by businesses to distinguish their products or services from others in the marketplace. In simple terms, a trademark is an identifier—it could be the name of your product, your business logo, or a catchy slogan.
Small Businesses Should Understand their Brand
For small businesses in South Florida, understanding the value and function of trademarks is crucial. Your brand represents your business identity—it is how customers recognize and differentiate you from competitors. A strong trademark helps in building brand loyalty and enhancing your market presence. Small business owners should see their trademarks as assets.
Common Law Protects Trademarks—But Registration Provides Benefits
In Florida, common law offers protection to trademarks the moment they are used in commerce. In other words, this means that simply by using a specific mark, you acquire some legal protections. That being said, registering the trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides enhanced benefits like exclusive rights to the mark nationwide, the ability to bring action concerning the mark in federal court, and the use of the U.S. registration symbol ®.
A Trademark Search Before a Major Branding Investment is a Must
You do not want to invest major resources into a brand if you cannot obtain trademark rights. It is imperative to conduct a thorough trademark search. A trademark search is a step that helps to ensure that your chosen mark is not already in use or registered by another business, preventing legal disputes and rebranding costs later on. In Florida, besides checking the USPTO database, it is advisable, at minimum, to search the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations’ records. However, best practice is to obtain a comprehensive trademark search that searches the Secretary of State records across the country, along with domain names, social media names, etc. before embarking on spending substantial resources promoting a brand. You do not have to do it alone: An experienced trademark attorney for small businesses can help.
A Small Business Must Enforce its Own Trademark Rights
The USPTO will not proactively enforce your trademark rights. Remember, the responsibility of enforcing trademark rights falls upon the business owner. If you discover any infringement or unauthorized use of your trademark, you have the right to take action against the offending party, potentially including sending a cease-and-desist letter and even filing a trademark infringement lawsuit to seek other remedies.
Contact Our Florida Trademark Law Attorney for Immediate Help
At Perkins Law, our Florida intellectual property lawyer has the professional skills, knowledge, and legal expertise to represent small business owners. If you are a small business owner with questions about your rights or options, please contact us today for a strictly confidential case evaluation. Our firm provides IP law services to small businesses throughout South Florida.