There are four critical steps to trademark the name of your construction company. First, take the time to choose a strong mark from the start. Next, be sure similar trademarks don’t exist by conducting a comprehensive trademark search. Then, file your trademark with the USPTO. Once your trademark is registered, actively police its use and meet renewal deadlines. Taking these four steps will help to ensure that your trademark is protected.
As the owner of a construction company, you understand the value of building and maintaining customer loyalty in the community. As you work to build a solid reputation, you should also ensure that reputation is protected. A registered trademark not only adds validity to your business, but it also provides legal protection against anyone looking to benefit from your good name. Consider these 4 steps to trademark the name of your construction company.
1. Choose a Strong Mark from the Start
Your trademark is often the first interaction your customers have with your construction company, whether written on the side of your work vehicles or while conducting an online search. Because of this, it is important to take the time to create a strong mark. Not all trademarks are created equal, based on strength, and there are actually some types of marks that will not be approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. Trademarks can be divided into four categories, based on their strength and distinctiveness:
- Generic words depict a general product or service. Building Construction Company would be an example of a generic business name. These generic words will not be approved by the USPTO because they cannot function as distinct trademarks.
- Descriptive trademarks describe a product or service. An example of this type of mark would be Best Construction Company. Because the terms used are not unique in any way, descriptive marks receive very little protection.
- Suggestive trademarks only hint at the product or service being offered. Hammer and Nails Construction would be a suggestive business name. While this trademark category offers more protection, trademark disputes are still possible, as others may choose a similar, non-distinct language for their business.
- Arbitrary trademarks consist of commonly used words that aren’t related to the good or service provided. An example of this type of mark would be Lightning Construction. Arbitrary marks offer much stronger protection from infringement, but owners may find it more challenging to educate consumers on the goods or services offered by the business.
- Fanciful trademarks offer the strongest protection against infringement. They are invented terms with no relation to the product or service provided. Kodak is a popular example of a fanciful mark.
Many construction companies choose to use a surname in the name of their businesses, like Robinson Builders or Taylor Construction. The USPTO considers these names descriptive trademarks, and it is often difficult to secure trademark protection on the Principal Register right away. That said, typically after using the trademark for five or more years, a surname is capable of being protected on the USPTO’s Principal Register.
2. Complete a Comprehensive Trademark Search
Once you’ve created a strong mark, but before you submit a trademark application, it is best to perform a comprehensive trademark search. This is done to determine if a similar trademark exists. While it can be frustrating to learn that your business name may already be in use, it is best to learn this before you submit your application and pay your fees. If you are alerted to any existing marks that may be considered confusingly similar, you will have the opportunity to make the necessary changes to your mark prior to submission.
While you can find trademark searches offered online and through legal sites, it is best to work with an experienced trademark attorney to conduct your search. These DIY searches will typically only return results on exact matches. The problem, however, is that most trademark disputes arise, not from exact word matches, but on any marks that may cause a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. The search software available to trademark attorneys allows for a much more comprehensive search that will reveal not only exact matches but similar matches to your mark as well.
3. Register with the USPTO
In the United States, you will have some trademark protections simply by using the mark. These common law protections, however, are limited only to the small geographic region where your business is located. For some construction companies, this geographic limitation may not be an issue, but for most businesses, restriction against expansion could significantly impact the future success of the company.
Unlike a common law trademark, a federally registered trademark comes with the presumption of nationwide validity. Your business will be able to expand to different areas, and you’ll have stronger legal protections if trademark disputes arise. In addition, as a registered trademark owner, you will also be able to use the ® symbol where ever your mark is seen, from the decals on your trucks to your signs and website. Potential customers see the use of the symbol as an additional layer of validity and professionalism for your construction company.
4. Maintain Your Trademark
The USPTO registers trademarks, but they do not enforce the exclusivity of their use. In order to protect your mark against infringement, you must actively police it. Many trademark attorneys will provide monitoring services for you and will alert you to any possible infringement that may arise. They will also assess the situation and determine the best course of action to take. Often, a cease-and-desist letter is all that is needed to put the infringer on notice. Occasionally, however, you may need to enter into a more formal legal proceeding.
If a registered trademark is maintained and continually in use, it will not expire! However, as the trademark owner, you are responsible for renewing your trademark registration by the set deadlines. For new trademarks, the first renewal will occur between five and six years after the registration date, and then again between the ninth and tenth year. After that, you will need to renew your trademark every ten years. It is important to be aware of these renewal dates and start the process to renew well before the set date. The USPTO has a zero-tolerance policy for late renewals, and failing to meet the deadline could mean cancellation of the trademark.
Obtaining a Trademark for your Construction Company
A construction company’s success is largely dependent on the brand’s reputation. In order to protect the reputation you’ve worked so hard to create, it is important to trademark the name of your construction company. To begin, decide upon a strong mark from the start. Avoid generic or descriptive words in your business name. Then, complete a comprehensive trademark search to determine if similar marks exist. Next, register your trademark with the USPTO. As a registered trademark owner, it will then be your responsibility to actively police your mark and meet renewal deadlines. Contact an experienced trademark attorney to begin the process to register your trademark today.