You are good at what you do, maybe even great! That is the first ingredient required to make a successful brand, but there is more. To grow your business you need customers. These customers must remember your greatness, they must know how to find you, and they must recognize you when they see you. Creating and nurturing a strong brand, through judicious trademark selection, can help your customers do all of these things. This is the value of a trademark, it identifies who you are and what you do. It sets you apart, makes people remember you, and gives them the confidence to consume anything that is associated with your brand.
Let’s say you bake pies, apple pies. And these are not ordinary pies, they are the best apple pies in the world, just like Grandma made, but even tastier, and healthy too! Who would not want one of these pies? These things sell themselves so you choose not to invest in fancy advertising or branding, you decide to label them simply:
Homemade Apple Pie
These pies sell like hotcakes! That is, until your evil cousin decides to sell her own pies. She labels her pies “Homemade Apple Pie,” too. But she did not use the same family recipe you used. Her apple pies are meant to remind the eater of an entire Thanksgiving dinner, not just dessert. So she uses poultry seasoning instead of cinnamon in her pies. Not surprisingly, her pies do not sell as well as yours. Soon you notice a slowdown in sales because nobody knows which pies are the good pies and which are the horrible pies. Your customers are confused.
You decide to ease the confusion by making blueberry pies instead of apple pies. Nobody thought it was possible, but the blueberry pies are even better than the apple. You label your blueberry pies:
Homemade Blueberry Pie
But your old customers do not know that it is you, and not your evil cousin, who is making the new blueberry pies. And everybody who has tasted your cousin’s pie is too scared to every eat pie again. So your delicious blueberry pies do not sell well.
You finally decide to change your name. Now you label your pies:
Kelly’s Famous Blueberry Pie
Your customers now know that you are not the same person who made the horrid apple pie, but they still do not know that you are responsible for the most delightful apple pie they have ever eaten. You have lost the momentum you had when you first started selling pies.
You try to boost sales by expand into a broader market, but you find that somebody in that market has been selling “Kelly’s Famous” pies for years. Because of this prior use, you are prohibited from bringing your new name into the new market. You are frustrated and you drop out of the pie business.
You had a great product and so much potential, but your resources were squandered by a lack of branding. What could have been? Well, you could have chosen the name Heaven in a Crust and put this label on each of your apple pies:
Heaven in a Crust™
And if you had performed a trademark search on “Heaven in a Crust,” you would have known that nobody else was using it for their pie business. This would have allowed you to secure a national registration on the mark and prevent anybody else from using the mark anywhere in the United States, leaving the market open for you to introduce your product throughout the country.
When your evil cousin started making her knock off apple pies, your consumers would have known they were not from the same baker as your pies, because they were not marked “Heaven in a Crust.” And you would not have lost customers due to somebody else’s inferior product. If she had tried to steal your trademark and mark her pies “Evil Cousin’s Heaven in a Crust,” you would have been able to stop her use of the trademark because her use infringed your rights.
Your apple pie business could have been so successful that you would have branched out into other flavors. Your blueberry and rhubarb pies would have set sales records. And when you labeled your newest pie:
Heaven in a Crust®
Ketchup and Lemon Pie
people still would have bought it because they trusted your brand…and it would have been delicious.
While it is unlikely that you will be hit with all the misfortune visited upon this wonderful pie maker, any one of these things may be enough to harm your business. Choosing and protecting a strong trademark can prevent you from the loss of clients due to a competitor using a trademark that is confusingly similar to yours, from being forced to change your name because somebody else had prior rights to the name, or from losing sales because customers do not recognize your products.
An attorney with experience in trademark law can assist you in selecting and registering a strong trademark that is not being used by a competitor.