Children, unlike their parents and grandparents, are often the most brand loyal customers around. Studies have shown that brand awareness can begin as early as two-years-old, and it’s often hard to break a loyalty once it’s been established. For people in the toy industry, this means that a strong brand is the key to success. While several factors can help grow your brand over time, it is important not to overlook a registered trademark and the protections it provides your brand as your business grows.
How Can I Use Trademarks to Build My Toy Brand?
Trademarks provide many beneficial protections to businesses in the toy industry. Consider the following steps as you build your toy brand.
- Create a strong trademark for your toy brand.
- Complete a trademark search.
- File your trademark application, both domestically and internationally.
- Develop brand style guidelines for your employees and vendors.
- Monitor and police your trademark.
- Maintain your trademark through consistent use and renewals.
Create a Strong Trademark for Your Toy Brand
The first step to developing and building your toy brand is choosing a strong trademark. A registered trademark will protect the identifying factors of your product or brand, including your business name, logo, or slogan. Most business owners choose to begin the trademark process by only registering their business or product name. While this is certainly the most important mark to register, in the toy industry, where your target market is highly visual and may not yet be able to read, it is wise to consider creating and filing a trademark application for a logo as well.
You’ve likely entered the toy industry with a unique idea, and therefore, your trademark should be unique as well. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, specifies which types of trademarks are best, and which will likely not be granted. Avoid using descriptive words in your mark, like “great” or “fun.” These generic words are so widely used, there is no way to enforce their exclusivity. Suggestive terms are stronger than descriptive words, using words or phrases that do not describe or relate to the product you are selling. The trademark with the highest likelihood of approval is considered fanciful, or completely made up. “Crayola” is a great example of a fanciful trademark. A unique trademark that cannot be confused with competitors is an essential brand building strategy.
Complete a Trademark Search
The USPTO will reject any trademark applications that are considered too similar to existing registered marks. For this reason, once you’ve decided on a strong trademark, it is best to conduct a comprehensive trademark search. This search should be done before you submit an application to the trademark office. While it can be frustrating to learn that your toy’s trademark has already been registered, it is best to learn this in the pre-application phase. This way, you will have the opportunity to make needed changes prior to investing time and money into an application.
Many entrepreneurs, in an effort to save some money up front, opt to conduct a trademark search by themselves, either through a DIY legal site or a simple search engine, like Google. Unfortunately, this budget saving measure may end up costing you more in the long run. Most search engines or software available to the public will only reveal exact matches to your trademark. Most trademark disputes, however, do not come from identical marks, but rather similar marks that could create a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. To ensure that you have conducted a comprehensive search, it is best to work with an experienced trademark attorney, whose search software will reveal not only exact word matches, but similar matches to existing business names, logos, or slogans as well.