It’s always a great time to open a business in the Los Angeles area. Whether you plan to open a gym in Studio City or a boutique in Manhattan Beach, you’ll need a unique brand to help you stand out. As you select a business name, write a catchy slogan, and design your logo, you should also create a plan to protect your intellectual property. The best way to do that is through trademark registration.
Is a Trademark Registration Required to Use a Business Name?
The United States is a common law country, so you will have some limited protections the moment you open your Los Angeles-based business, whether or not you’ve registered your business name with the USPTO. These common law rights, though, were designed to stop local competitors from infringing on each other, so your business name will only be protected in the L.A. area. If your business plans include expansion outside SoCal in the future, you may be excluded from some markets where confusingly similar business names are already in use. In order to have the presumption of validity nationwide, you will need to register your business name and any other trademarks you may have with the USPTO.
The process to register your trademark also includes a comprehensive trademark search. Conducting this due diligence will greatly decrease the likelihood of infringing on another business, as well. Without registration, you may learn that your business’s name is confusingly similar to an existing business. If you’re found to be infringing on that business, you’ll need to undergo a costly and time-consuming rebranding process that likely could have been avoided with trademark registration.
Trademarking is the Best Way to Protect Your Brand
Los Angeles can be a crowded marketplace for almost any industry, and your unique brand is what will help your business stand out from the rest. When your trademarks are registered with the USPTO, you can be sure that a confusingly similar mark won’t be registered after yours. If another business knowingly or unknowingly infringes on your registered mark, you’ll also be able to take legal action to stop them.
The valuable protections provided by a federally registered trademark allow you, the business owner, to maintain control of your brand and its reputation. When infringement goes unchecked, even loyal customers may become confused and even swayed to another business’s products or services, directly impacting your bottom line. Even worse, if the other business’s products or services are inferior, that could directly impact your brand’s reputation as well.
When your trademarks are protected, you’ll be able to build solid relationships with clients and customers, and establish the all-important brand loyalty. When customers are familiar with your business name, logo, or even signature color, they’ll begin to recognize it in the marketplace and associate it with your brand’s solid reputation, even if the product or service offered is one they haven’t tried. You’ll be able to leverage this recognition to grow your business, expand your product line, or offer new services.
Important Tips for Filing a Trademark
Don’t fall in love with a particular trademark until you know it’s available for registration. Instead, create a short list of potential business names, then work with your trademark attorney to conduct a comprehensive trademark search. If your attorney finds that a confusingly similar mark is already in use, you can go down the list until you find a mark that will not cause a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace.
After you’ve settled on an available trademark, work with your attorney to file your trademark application with the USPTO. The process to file a trademark application can be complicated and time-consuming, and expert assistance is extremely helpful in streamlining the process. Your attorney will help you to choose the correct trademark classes, provide the appropriate specimens, and even respond to non-substantive Office Actions on your behalf, so instead of spending time learning the details of IP law, you can remain focused on your LA business.
Your business may be based in Los Angeles, but today’s global economy allows you to do business and reach customers in California and across the world. While your federal trademark registration provides valuable protections within the United States, it will not protect you in disputes outside the U.S. If you reach customers in another country, or if you manufacture and distribute your products there, you should strongly consider registering your trademark there as well.
Once your federal trademark registration has been approved by the USPTO, it won’t expire, as long as you continue to use it just as it appears on your trademark application and meet renewal deadlines. For new trademark owners, you’ll need to renew your mark between the fifth and sixth year, and then again between the ninth and tenth year. After that, you’ll be required to renew your trademark every ten years in order to maintain protections.
Register the Trademarks of Your LA-Based Business
As a business owner in Los Angeles, you understand how important it is to build a brand that will separate you from your competitors. You’ve probably spent countless hours selecting the perfect business name, the right shade of blue, or an eye-catching logo, so be sure to protect it with trademark registration. A registered trademark will give your brand the presumption of validity nationwide, allowing you to expand outside LA in the future. You’ll also be able to build your brand and maintain control of your reputation. Before you register your marks, though, work with an attorney to conduct a comprehensive search and ensure your application is completed correctly.
Josh Gerben is the founder of Gerben Perrott PLLC, a full-service intellectual property boutique offering trademark, copyright, and patent services. Since 2008, Gerben IP has secured over 6,000+ trademark registrations for clients and has been quoted in a wide range of local and national news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and more.