For many businesses, trademarks play a central role in sales, marketing, and branding.
The more able your trademark is to help your customers identify your products in the marketplace, the more value it has to your company.
But your mark's ability to attract customers also makes it attractive to your competitors. By duplicating certain aspects of your trademark, the competition can piggyback on your success and create the appearance of similar value characteristics with consumers. As a business owner, it's in your best interest to aggressively defend your trademark, even it means suing a competitor or other party for trademark infringement.
Trademark Defense Strategies
When it comes to trademarks, the best defense is a good offense. In other words, the key to avoiding trademark infringement is to proactively reinforce your legal ownership stake in the mark. Trademark registration with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is an essential first step in protecting your trademark. As part of the registration process, your trademark should be highly distinctive (rather than descriptive) and your company should be the first to use it in actual commerce.
Additionally, you will need to demonstrate that the mark has been used in interstate commerce to qualify for a federal trademark registration. If not, you will need to file for a state trademark registration, which may limit your legally enforceable geographic range.
Trademark Infringement Suits
An attorney with experience in trademark law is an obvious prerequisite for a successful trademark infringement lawsuit. From a legal standpoint, the courts evaluate trademark infringement cases according to a standard described as a "likelihood of confusion".
Specifically, courts use multiple criteria in assessing whether or not a likelihood of confusion exists. These criteria include (but may not be limited to) the strength of the mark, the similarity of the marks, evidence of confusion in the marketplace, the similarity of marketing channels, and the defendant's intent.
Trademark owners can also take legal action for trademark dilution. Dilution is a scenario in which a "famous" mark has been tarnished or negatively impacted through its use by an unauthorized party or through its identification with dissimilar products.