If you are a business owner in a small town like Lancaster, you have a personal understanding of the importance of building a recognizable, long-lasting brand narrative that speaks to your consumer audience. As your business grows beyond the borders of Lancaster County, it is crucial that steps are taken to protect your name, slogan, and logo that serve as the heart of your business. Read on for the steps to protect your business in Lancaster, PA.
If you are a business owner next door in Philadelphia, learn how to protect your brand locally here.
1. Safeguard your website
In the current environment, more businesses than ever before are turning to online sales. As more companies enter the virtual world, it has become increasingly imperative that your business’s website can stand out amongst this new crowded field. Additionally, moving into the virtual marketplace means that regional or state boundaries that once separated competitors are now essentially gone–and while this helps you reach a larger audience for your products and services, it also means that there is an increased chance that a customer may confuse your company with another selling in a similar space.
As this shift continues, protecting your web content should become a priority. The best way to do this is growing your intellectual property ownership, beginning with the aspects of your website that you are able to copyright. By regularly filing your posts and content with the US Copyright Office, you can be certain that you have the necessary tools to deal with any misappropriation or infringement of your web content, should it occur. Check out our blog post, “How to Copyright Your Website”, for a complete breakdown.
2. Select a strong trademark
When deciding to expand your intellectual property portfolio, a next logical step would be to file for a US trademark application (Learn How). Their versatility is displayed in their ability to protect a company’s name, logo, slogan, or even the trade dress of a product or display.
Selecting a strong trademark means finding a unique name or phrase that represents your company without being descriptive of or generic for the products or services that you offer. Applications for marks that are determined to simply be descriptive of the goods that you plan to offer will almost certainly be refused by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Instead, choose something that helps you stand out in the marketplace and is unique enough to not only catch consumers’ attention, but also help you achieve a trademark registration.
3. File for a trademark registration
Before you file a trademark application, it is imperative that a clearance search is first performed for the mark you have chosen. Typically performed by a trademark attorney, these searches scour the register for existing trademarks that may bar your registration. Once you are confident that your selected mark has a high chance of achieving a registration, your attorney will draft and submit the trademark application. The timeline for a trademark application is typically eight to ten months from the date of submission, though this may vary depending on refusals that may be issued and the filing basis of the application. While this may seem like a lengthy process, the protections that a trademark can offer your brand will extend from Lancaster to the West Coast.
4. Apply for a patent
Patents are yet another potentially valuable addition to your intellectual property portfolio. If there is an invention associated with you or your company, seeking out a patent registration may be a good next step for you. Patents, which are issued for ideas that are novel and new, can be instrumental to your company’s growth beyond Lancaster. Like trademarks, clearance searches are a significant first step before submitting an application for a patent. Because patents are only issued for inventions that are not already in use, it is incredibly important for the applicant to ensure that their idea is truly unique to them and has not already been patented. Should a patent registration be found that is similar to your idea, you can hone your application to focus on the most novel aspects of your invention to increase your chances of success.
5. Monitor the marketplace
Overall, it is the responsibility of the owner of the copyright, trademark, or patent to police the marketplace and their industry to confirm that there are no possible infringers operating in similar spaces. Good habits for monitoring the marketplace also include setting up search engine alerts for your trademark, as well as checking the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database for new applications that may conflict with your registrations. Many attorneys that specialize in intellectual property also offer monitoring services that conduct searches on the owner’s behalf, a valuable tool for those intending to protect their branding across the country.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure that your homegrown Lancaster business has nationwide and international protection is through intellectual property. If you are interested in growing your portfolio, monitoring services, or seeking out next steps for your Pennsylvania-based company, please reach out to an attorney at Gerben Law Firm for a complimentary consultation. With several regional offices and a deep familiarity with Lancaster and its surrounding counties, Gerben Law Firm provides professional trademark services to individuals and businesses locally in Lancaster, PA, and nationally.