The concerns of running a bar business comprise a very long list: staffing, inventory management, choosing and maintaining your location, accounting and other financial concerns; the list goes on. With so much to worry about regarding the day-to-day operations, learning about the ins and outs of the trademark process – and whether you should even undertake registering a trademark for your bar – can seem less important by comparison.

Let’s start with the answer to that most basic question: should you register a trademark for your bar? The answer is yes: the potential risks that you take on by not registering and protecting the name of your business are manifold. Neglecting to register a trademark may avoid a relatively small time and money expenditure up front, but the long-term potential damage to your resources, time, and the health of your business far outweigh those factors.

What can happen to your bar without a registered trademark? Another business may claim that they’re the rightful owner of the name you’re using. They may have a rightful claim or they may not, but if they have a registered federal trademark and you do not, there is a much greater burden of proof of first use and rightful trademark claim on you.

If you’re unable to prove that you have a priority claim (through first use) to the trademark for your bar, you may have to change the name of your business, causing severe damage to your brand and reputation – customers may think that management has changed, that you’re re-branding, or that you’re an entirely different establishment altogether. There are enormous potential losses to your bottom line in a case like this.

That’s one scenario that can arise from not registering a trademark for the name of your bar. Let’s look at some others, and answer some additional questions.

Q: What are some other potential consequences of not registering a trademark for my bar?

A: Without a registered trademark, you may inadvertently choose a name similar (or identical to) an existing business, or another business may choose a similar one to you. Customers or new patrons may be confused as to which is which, with the potential effect of supporting the other establishment when they mean to be going to your bar. That means lost revenue for you.

Q: How do I register a trademark for my bar?

A: Filling out and submitting a trademark application through the United States Patent & Trademark Office gets the trademark registration process (which takes six to eight months) started. On the application, you’ll provide information about your business and your mark, specifically, how it will appear and how it will be used to identify your business. The services of a trademark attorney can help you complete the trademark application for your bar as completely and accurately as possible, reducing the chances of delays in your registration.

Q: Does my trademark cover merchandise connected to my bar?

A: Your initial trademark protects the name of your bar in regards to its operation as a restaurant business. If you sell merchandise with your bar name or logo on it, you’ll need to submit expand your trademark application for your mark covering each class of goods that you wish to sell: glassware, for example, coasters, or t-shirts (this can increase the USPTO filing fees due with your application).

Q: Can I trademark any kind of name for my bar?

A: The name of your bar should be considered a strong trademark by the United States Patent & Trademark Office. That means that it should be a “fanciful,” “unrelated,” or “suggestive” term – one that has no descriptive relation (or only a distant relation requiring a leap of logic, in the case of a “suggestive” term) to your bar. Terms that are more descriptive of your bar or the products you sell are weaker, and may not be approved by the USPTO, or may be subject only to very narrow protections. Generic terms that merely describe what exactly your business is may not be trademarked.

Q: What do I do if another bar or restaurant uses my trademarked bar name?

A: With a registered trademark, you have broad legal protections against other similar businesses using your mark. Once your trademark is registered, you are entitled to use the small circled “R” registration symbol with your bar’s name, which serves as public notice of your trademark ownership. Once another business realizes this, they’ll either steer clear of a similar (or identical) name altogether, or comply with your request to cease use – your trademark registration is an implicit claim to the name.

You can also monitor USPTO filings to ensure that the USPTO doesn’t begin to allow similar names to your bar, narrowing your rights to the mark – you can file challenges to pending applications if you feel this situation is occurring. A registered federal trademark also gives you the support of the USPTO in challenging existing marks that you feel infringe upon yours (although the responsibility of locating and policing these marks lies with you).

With this information about the “how” and “why” of registering a trademark for your bar, the benefits should be much more clear. It’s best to begin the process as soon as possible – the longer you wait, the more open you become to infringement and loss of business.