It’s common knowledge in the marketing world that if you want to be able to sell a product or service, you should come up with a unique selling proposition that allows you to make what you offer very attractive to a potential buyer. How you brand and package what you offer is a critical part of your unique selling proposition. Despite the fact that this is common knowledge, I’m surprised at how little effort most companies spend on branding their products and unique processes into a way that is extremely compelling, and how they also fail to federally register those assets to make them even more valuable.
In reality, the easiest way to grow your company’s value and protect yourself at the same time is by creating unique and compelling intellectual property assets and then properly registering those assets. This not only allows you to establish market share by increasing your sales through compelling offerings, but to maintain your market share by the proper protections. Let’s walk through how you can do this for your business if you haven’t already done so, or want ideas on improving what you’re already doing.
Step #1: Create Compelling Company, Product, and Process Names
If you want to increase your sales and company value over time, you need to name and package your products and services properly. It’s a good idea to do an inventory of what names you are already using, to evaluate how compelling they really are, and see what you can do to improve upon them. I’ve included a worksheet below called “No Name, No Gain” from my proprietary Industry Dominator strategic planning forms to help you in this process.
Do you see how I gave that worksheet a name, plus the overall package of strategic planning forms? That’s part of my branding and packaging of what I offer in interesting ways to make it more attractive to prospective clients. You should do the same thing in your business. Don’t just come up with a compelling company name. Dig a little deeper and do that for your product and service names, as well as for some unique processes that you can use to describe what those products or services actually do.
Step #2: See If Those Names Are Available
Once you choose some compelling names for your company, products, services, and processes, you should do some research to make sure that those names are available for use. If someone else already has a registered trademark on those names, or is using those names in a similar way, then you should pick a different name to avoid potential trademark infringement issues in the future.
Here are a few tips on how you can search to see if some else has already registered your preferred name for a similar purpose, or is using it in a similar way:
A. Go to the United States Patent & Trademark web site at www.uspto.gov. Then, click “Trademarks”, “Search Trademarks”, and run various key word searches to see who else is using the brand or a similar version of it. Generally, it’s OK for there to be another trademark on the same or similar phrase if you’re using it in totally different ways that would not be confusing to consumrs. The exception to this is with famous trademarks that are allowed to transcend all industries. Once you verify on the trademark database that no one else has registered what you want to use in a similar way, move on to the next step.
B. Perform several searches on Google or another search engine to see if you find other companies using the name in a similar way. You can earn trademark rights in the United States by using a name in commerce. So even if someone hasn’t obtained a federal trademark registration on the name, they could still have superior rights to use it over you if they started earlier.
C. If the name you are searching for is a company name that you will be forming with a Secretary of State, you should also search that Secretary of State web site to make sure the name is available to be registered in the state where you plan to incorporate.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to explain the nuances of trademark law, but this will at least give you some general ideas on how to gauge whether you may need to choose a different name for your company, products, or services. Let’s look at the next step.
Step #3: File Your Own Federal Registrations
I’m always amazed that business owners will take the time to record the deed to their homes, yet they rarely do the same thing for the valuable intellectual assets for their business that are responsible for generating all that revenue. Trademark and copyright registrations allow you to formalize and protect the assets you’ve worked so hard to create for your business, while also growing the value of your company at the same time.
Here Is The Proper Way To Mark Your Copyright Interests:
Copyright [Year] [Company Name]. All Rights Reserved.
Example: Copyright 2014 Gosnell & Associates, P.C. All Rights Reserved.
Trademarks protect brand names, while copyrights protect the expression of the work product, like the contents of a book, painting, etc. Federal trademark and copyright registrations are issued by the U.S. government as an additional level of validation of your rights and the value of those intellectual properties.
Trademarks can be registered in the U.S. with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov), as I mentioned earlier in this article. Copyrights in your work product (such as the content of your actual products or books) can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). You can file these yourself, or hire an attorney skilled in those areas to assist you.
You can still earn trademark and copyright interests without filing a federal registration. But there are numerous advantages to having federal registrations on your most important intellectual assets. You have stronger evidence that you actually own and have rights in those products, you can get increased damages in certain infringement scenarios, and you can more easily deal with piracies and other infringements against you by having evidence of your registration.
Here’s another advantage to having federal registrations on your most important intellectual assets. It makes your business more attractive to a potential buyer if you ever want to sell it. Why is that the case? Well, let’s think a minute from the perspective of the potential buyer. Would you rather acquire a company with a bunch of unrecorded deeds to products, services, and brands that you’ll have to hassle with later, or would you prefer to buy one that already has received federal registration certificates for the very assets that make the company so appealing? The answer is obvious. As you can see, there are numerous advantages to filing federal registrations on your most important assets, just as you would do with your own house deed.