By Vikas Srinath, Associate

The internet has opened up a world of opportunity for the average consumer to find the exact product or service they’re looking for.  As a result, retailers are placing a prime emphasis on building a brand and establishing a reputation so as to separate themselves from the rest of the vendor ecosystem.  Accordingly, businesses are relying on trademark law to grow their brands and protect their reputation.

Trademark law generally serves two functions: (1) to protect consumers from being confused or deceived about goods or services in the marketplace, and (2) to encourage merchants to stand behind their goods or services by protecting the goodwill they have developed in their marks. To put these functions in context, consider the following scenario:

An electronics manufacturer designs and sells a smartphone that features, prominently, a pear engraved on its backside.  When the manufacturer sees sales begin to increase, it spends money on an advertising campaign that shows customers of all ages using the product while featuring the pear logo.  However, within three weeks of reaching new heights in sales and market presence, the manufacturer sees smartphones made with its exact same pear imprint on its backside listed at a fraction of the cost of the original pear-branded smartphones, but listed by another seller.  Unsurprisingly, the quality control of these newly sold, but similar-looking products is poor, and the original pear-brand manufacturer finds its sales dropping significantly as consumers who purchase the knockoff phone begin to confuse the lower-quality products with those of the original.

Unfortunately, the scenario above (and many more like it) is common, especially in the online marketplace. Combined with the need to keep operations lean, many original product manufacturers and service providers find themselves undercut significantly because they didn’t have the tools to protect their trademark, or they risk having to litigate in order to enforce their rights.

Trademark registration with the USPTO confers a number of benefits to the registering party in addition to avoiding unpredictable litigation outcomes, including: (1) giving a party the right to use the mark nationwide, subject to certain limitations[1], and (2) providing nationwide constructive notice to others that the trademark is owned by the party, thereby enabling that party to bring an infringement suit in federal court[2].  Practically, registration allows the party to potentially recover treble damages, attorneys fees, and other non-monetary remedies; after five years of active use of a mark, registered trademarks can provide an exclusive right that is considered conclusively established[3].

The old adage rings true: an ounce of prevention can lead to a pound of cure.

For more information on the next steps you and your business can take, or any other information related to trademarks, intellectual property, and related disputes, please feel free to contact our firm.

The Law Offices of Pankaj S. Raval has been one of the top registrants of trademarks for retailers and entrepreneurs. For information on starting the process, please call 323.543.4453, or email [email protected] to learn more about protecting your brand today.

 

[1] 15 U.S.C. §1072

[2] 15 U.S.C. §1121

[3] 15 U.S.C. §1065

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