Food trucks seem to be on every corner, and the outdoor, mobile nature of the services makes it an ideal way to launch a new concept for food and drink. The food truck industry is experiencing exponential growth, with an estimated 26,000+ food truck companies in the United States. With COVID-19 pandemic-related social distance and maximum occupancy restrictions, mobile food consumption has become more popular than ever. Given the growing number of food trucks available to consumers and the soaring attraction to the industry, mobile food service companies’ branding has become just as important as their menus.
While business owners in the mobile food service industry are working diligently to secure parking permits and perfect their menus, they often forget to protect their brands. Whether it is the company name, logo, or slogan that appears on every product or across the side of your truck, this intellectual property is a valuable asset that is worth protecting.
The Benefits of Protecting Your Food Truck Trademarks
Food trucks serve a transient consumer population, and the nature of the industry requires food trucks to be ever moving. This means that consumers may not remember which food truck was the source of their breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Consequently, food truck owners run the risk of having their goods and services be confused with that of a competitors’ food truck. A trademark allows food truck owners to intertwine their goods and services with their company name to create a strong, lasting brand.
A trademark in the food truck industry also enables business growth. If you are a food truck owner looking to expand into the restaurant industry, put on popup restaurant events, or are thinking about adding more mobile vehicles to your fleet, registering your brand opens many more opportunities. In particular, it puts investors, buyers, and even lenders at ease because they can see that you have gone above and beyond to protect your brand and carve out exclusive rights. Once you have established your trademarks, you can also license your mark to others. What is more, registered trademarks provide federal coverage, enabling you to expand your business to any locale across the country.
With so many companies in the food truck and mobile service industries, it’s necessary to protect your brand with a trademark to prevent infringing uses of your mark and protect yourself against allegations of trademark infringement.
This is not just a hypothetical situation – in July 2020, Public Espresso, a downtown Buffalo coffee shop, filed a lawsuit against Public Coffee Hub, a nearby food truck, alleging that the food truck’s branding infringed Public Espresso’s trademark. According to the complaint, the food truck owners “knowingly advertising, marketing, promoting, selling, and offering for sale the exact same class of goods as Public (Espresso), consisting of coffee-based products, baked goods, and related products, and intentionally using (Public Espresso’s) name and trademark with the knowledge that such use will cause consumers to be mistaken or confused.” If the junior user of the trademark had selected a name that did not overlap with a prior existing trademark, it would have likely avoided an expensive lawsuit and would be able to invest their marketing and building their own, unique brand.
How to Register Your Food Truck Trademarks
If you own or operate a food truck, there are a few quick steps you can take to protect your branding. You should start by doing an internal audit of your intellectual property so that you know what to protect. Then, you should consult an attorney to determine what intellectual property assets you should make a priority to protect and what type of trademarks are right for your business. Food trucks operate in a unique space because they provide both goods, their food and beverages, and services. This means to fully protect your business you might need to apply for trademarks for the goods you sell and a trademark for the service your mobile food service company is rendering.
Once you and your attorney have determined the appropriate trademarks for your business, you and your attorney should register your protectable assets with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Finally, you and your attorney should develop a strategic growth plan for your intellectual property and how to defend your intellectual property in the event you need to.
If you have any questions about how to protect your food truck trademarks, please fill out a contact form here.