Do YOU OWN YOUR NAME? Protecting Your Business’s Brand in North Carolina

Imagine with me…

You had a business idea. You spent countless hours brainstorming and planning to bring this idea to reality. You have spent or intend to spend years—decades even—honing your craft and working hard to provide an exemplary product or service to customers. This is your business, built from the ground up, and you give it a name, something clever or catchy and meaningful to you and your products or services.

A foundational component to your business’s success is its name. It is the name, after all, that identifies your product with you. Knowing this, you spend thousands of dollars investing in marketing campaigns, websites, apparel, signs, and labels to market your product and name in the market. And then—maybe years into your operations—another business hits you with a cease and desist telling you that you can no longer use your business’s name.  They say your business’s name is, in fact, their business’s name, and they will sue you if you don’t immediately change your business name.

Unfortunately, failing to properly select and protect a business name makes this nightmare scenario the reality for many businesses.  Skufca Law can help make sure this doesn’t happen to you!   

What is a Trademark?

 A trademark is a visual symbol, a combination of words, or a unique design element that sets your products or services apart from those of your competitors. The moment consumers encounter your trademark, they should instantly connect it to the quality and characteristics of your offerings.  How does a customer distinguish Pepsi, from Coke, or from store brand Cola in the store?  It’s probably not the liquid you look at, but the name.

In essence, your trademark is your brand’s visual signature that tells customers that any product under its label will have the quality they associate with you. A trademark gives you:

  • Brand Protection: The most apparent role of trademarks is brand protection. By securing your unique mark, you prevent others from capitalizing on the goodwill, recognition, and reputation you’ve built in the market.
  • Exclusive Rights: Trademarks grant you the exclusive rights to use your mark in association with your products or services. This exclusivity gives you a competitive edge in the market and prevents others from diluting your brand’s identity.
  • Consumer Trust: An instantly recognizable trademark fosters consumer trust. When customers see your trademark, they know they are dealing with a brand they are familiar with.  To go back to the soda example, customers know what taste to expect from each brand label.

Benefits of Trademark Registration

There is a difference between having a trademark and registering your trademark. Having a trademark occurs automatically when you have a unique name and symbol which you use in commerce. Registering your trademark is the formal process of adding your trademark to the state or federal database and obtaining the government’s formal recognition.  Businesses should consider this next step as there are many advantages to registering your mark. These benefits include:

  • Legal Protection: The primary benefit of trademark registration is the legal protection it provides. With a registered trademark, you gain legal grounds to take action against unauthorized use of your mark, ensuring that your brand identity remains intact.
  • Exclusive Rights: Trademark registration secures your exclusive rights to use your mark. This is pivotal in maintaining brand consistency and preventing others from leveraging your brand’s equity.
  • Increased Brand Value: A registered trademark can significantly enhance your brand’s value. It adds a layer of security and trust that can be appealing to investors, partners, and purchasers if you ever desire to sell your business.
  • Deterrence: A registered trademark acts as a deterrent, dissuading others from using a similar mark that could lead to consumer confusion.
  • Licensing Opportunities: With a registered trademark, you have the option to license your mark to other businesses, opening up additional revenue streams for your enterprise.

Trademark Registration in North Carolina

Many people think the only way to register their trademark is through the arduous and costly federal process though the United States Patent and Trade Office.  However, this is not the case, and most states—including North Carolina—allow businesses to register their trademark within the state for state-wide protection. For businesses who primarily operate in one or two states with no intent of expansion, obtaining a state trademark is a cost-effective and sufficiently protective alternative to obtaining a federal trademark.

When it comes to securing your brand’s integrity and market presence, North Carolina offers a robust framework for trademark protection.  Skufca Law can assist you with this process which includes: 1) confirming the availability of your trademark (basically confirming that no one else is already using your desired mark, 2) submitting your application to the state, and 3) submitting the appropriate renewals to maintain your trademark.

Trademark Requirements

For a name or design mark to qualify for registration, the mark must be distinctive, not purely descriptive, and not currently used in your industry.  For example, you may be able to name a furniture company “Apple.”  However, you would not be able to name a software company or fruit store “Apple.”  Selecting a name can be a tricky process and the attorneys at Skufca Law will be there every step of the way to counsel you through this process.

In North Carolina, trademark registration is a powerful tool for preserving the integrity of your brand identity and ensuring its continued success. By securing your unique mark, you not only gain legal protection but also bolster your brand’s reputation, value, and presence in the market. Don’t leave your brand’s identity to chance – invest in trademark registration and protect the legacy you’ve worked hard to build.

Contact the Skufca Law attorneys at (704) 376-3030 today to protect your business’ brand!