When we own something valuable, we go to great lengths to protect it. We lock our jewelry in safes, encrypt sensitive documents, and install video cameras to prevent others from breaking into our homes and businesses. But oftentimes, business people forget to protect one of their most valuable assets – their brand. Unfortunately, you can’t safeguard your brand by hiring a security guard. Instead, follow these five steps to protect your brand from infringement, copying, or misuse.
Call your Sioux City Law Firm, Omaha Law Firm or Sioux Falls Law Firm to learn how to best protect your brand.
- Trademark Your Brand/Logo
A trademark is a word, symbol, or phrase used to identify a manufacturer or seller’s products. Logos, business names, tag lines, and packaging can create a brand if they are unique and used in your company’s advertising. But how can you achieve this brand protection? If you are the first business to use that unique mark, you own the rights to it in your geographic area of business. However, registering your mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will allow you to ensure no similar marks exist and that your ownership of the logo, name, etc. is clear. In addition, you will gain national rights to the mark, meaning someone across the country can’t use the mark even though you don’t do business in their geographic area… yet.
- Determine if You Need International Trademarking Protection
Due to online commerce and social media, the business world is becoming increasingly globalized. Therefore, it may be damaging for another business to use your logo, symbol, or phrase in another country. If so, you need to internationally trademark your brand. Some businesses choose to register a trademark in a few key countries; others choose to complete an international trademark filing with groups such as Madrid Protocol, which consists of 98 countries. Contact an attorney for specific information on international trademarking procedures.
- Update Your Employee Handbook
Trade secrets, such as marketing techniques, customer lists, and product compositions, are vital to the success of your brand. If this information is passed on, it could damage your company’s competitive advantage and reputation. To help keep trade secrets confidential, you should define a trade secret, explain the importance of keeping them confidential, and describe company policies regarding the use or distribution of confidential information in the employee handbook. You should also discuss these items in employee training sessions. Employee non-competition agreements may also be worthwhile.
- Use Google Alerts
Google can send you emails, otherwise known as Google Alerts, when new results pop up for a designated topic. By setting up alerts which include your brand name, slogan, etc., you can monitor the internet to see what is being said about your brand online. This way, you will know if someone else is using your brand name or damaging its reputation.
- Register Your Website w/ the DMCA
What is the DMCA? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that, if a website is DMCA registered, the website owner cannot be sued for copyright infringement if a third party posts copyrighted information on it. For example, if people post videos with copyrighted music on YouTube, YouTube cannot be sued for this. However, the DMCA also offers protection to owners of copyrighted material – if website owners are notified that copyrighted information has been posted on their site, they must remove this information in a timely manner.
Your company can use this to its advantage. First, register your website with the DMCA. Then, if you receive a Google alert and realize your company’s copyrighted information is being used/posted, you can file a DMCA Takedown Notification Letter to ensure the information is removed. Although you can file this letter without being DMCA registered, your website’s unregistered status will make it difficult, if not impossible, to legally enforce the takedown notice if necessary.
Your brand is one of your most valuable assets, so you should go to great lengths to safeguard it. To protect it from infringement, copying, or misuse, make sure to follow the tips above. For any questions on trademarking, infringement, or other matters, contact a Goosmann attorney today.