Here’s what happens if you use a trademarked logo without permission.
Do you already know about the trademark? A trademark is any form that differentiates one product or service from another, be it in the form of a phrase, logo, or word. The use of trademarks is important because they identify the form of business every day.
However, a business must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) first for better protection. By registering a trademark with the institute, a business will be protected from the use of its trademark by other parties.
Will Registered Trademarks Always be Protected?
There are several steps required when registering a trademark. Starting from submitting an application to the USPTO, then paying a certain amount of fees, to the trademark review process carried out by the USPTO.
After the process is complete, the USPTO will then issue a registration certificate, which contains the granting of legal rights to the trademark owner. Trademarks that have been registered will receive protection, which will result in lawsuits for trademark infringers.
You need to remember that not all aspects will be protected; certain situations even allow registered trademarks to be used by other parties without permission.
1. The Trademark Infringements
What is a trademark infringement? This happens when someone uses another party's registered trademark without permission. As a result of these actions, consumers feel confused about the actual source of products and services.
The essence of a trademark infringement case is that it can cause consumers to become confused. However, cases of trademark infringement are not that simple because several things can be used as exceptions.
Let's look at an example. Let's say you run a business in the form of a bag shop. You've designed a unique logo that best describes your business, and it's been registered as a trademark with the USPTO.
Suddenly, a competitor uses the same logo as yours, even though their business is also a bag shop. In this case, you can file a lawsuit because the party has committed trademark infringement. You need to remember that there are certain requirements to sue for stolen trademarks.
It could be that you feel that another party has committed trademark infringement to the detriment of your business, even though there was no trademark infringement. The following are some exceptions where trademark infringement does not occur.
2. Nominative Fair Use
When you own a business that refers to a certain product, this cannot be called a trademark infringement. For example, there is a car repair shop that claims that they can repair or provide good service for Mitsubishi cars, so they don't violate the trademark referred to.
There are also other cases in which you can learn a lesson. There is an authorized dealer from Lexus who uses the domain by including the word "Lexus," and Lexus sues for trademark infringement.
The court ruled that there was no trademark infringement because the party being sued did not claim to be a Lexus but only offered Lexus vehicles. This is an example of nominative fair use.
3. Information Requirements
The case that becomes next exception is using a registered trademark to provide information. For example, to provide reviews about a product, express opinions, create information, educate others to choose a product with a certain brand, and provide descriptive information about a product.
This is because of the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the United States Constitution. This right provides an opportunity for anyone to provide information and express opinions regarding certain registered trademarks.
Remember, the use of a trademark, in this case, must be done in good faith without intending to destroy a brand.
4. Not Using Trademarks for Profit
Okay, this is the third type of exception in a trademark case. You may think that using certain trademarks is an offense, but first, see what the situation is. Using a Disney character may be an offense in certain situations. Suppose you provide a service as provided by Disney as the owner of the trademark.
On the other hand, if you use the Elsa character as a t-shirt for your needs, then that is not trademark infringement. The common defense used is that the use of the trademark is not intended for commercial purposes.
But you need to remember that making lots of Elsa characters or other copyrighted cartoons may not always be good. In essence, whether you are seeking profit from the trademark or not, we recommend that you not use characters that have registered trademarks for profit.
Is The Punishment to Go to Jail?
Trademark infringement is not regulated under criminal law but under civil law. You might not go to jail if you get a warning to stop using the trademark you stole.
You may be required to pay compensation for alleged trademark infringement from such use or refund profits from the registered trademarks of others. If you intentionally use a certain trademark for a counterfeit product or service, the fines can be quite high, even tripled.
Can Trademark Without TM or ® Marks Be Use?
A business with a ® mark has a registered trademark, whereas a TM mark indicates that the business or trademark is in the process of being registered. The use of these two signs is a form of information to other parties that the trademark is already owned by the user; you should never use them.
Do you want to use a logo that is already owned by another company? You shouldn't. Try to imagine yourself in the position of the legitimate owner of the logo, What do you do when someone else steals your idea? Intellectual property theft is a serious matter.
Will A Trademark Last?
You may think about copyright. However, trademarks can last as long as the business in that product or service area is active. Trademark owners will continue to apply for extensions with the USPTO in the next few years.
Then this is something you can remember. Maintaining the rights to the trademark will depend on the use of the mark. If it turns out that a mark is no longer used, either in goods or services, and is not used properly, then the rights can be lost.
What's The Difference Between Copyright and Trademark?
Copyrights and trademarks differ in what is protected. Copyright protects various works such as short stories, songs, novels, paintings, codes, or other forms of creative work whose purpose is for commercial purposes.
In this case, the material required to qualify for copyright must be in visual form. That is, the public must be able to see it, not just an idea that has come to mind.
On the other hand, trademarks tend to be several things, such as phrases, symbols, words, or a combination of these things. Trademarks function to protect elements used to represent a company and are usually used on documents, bags, or other items for sale.
Some logos meet copyright and trademark requirements, so you can have both. With trademarks, your logo and brand can be protected so that they will not be used by other companies.
Examples of trademarks such as a form of intellectual property protection to protect several elements such as logos, slogans, brand names, and certain taglines.
What Are Trademarks Protected From?
With a trademark, your intellectual property will be protected. If you have a business logo, you are its rightful owner and may use it for commercial purposes. By registering it as a trademark, your rights as the sole user of the logo are strengthened because you have received additional legal protection.
By registering your trademark with the USPTO, some of the protections you will get are as follows:
- You can register the trademark in other countries easily.
- Prevention of imports of foreign goods that could infringe on your trademark.
- The public will know that your trademark has been registered.
- Protect your trademark from parties who violate the law.
- You will be considered the holder of the exclusive right to use the services or goods as registered in the trademark.
On the other hand, trademarks cannot provide protection or exclusive rights for things that are too general. For example, you shouldn't name your business "Apple Juice" because that would be too generic.
You need to underline that the trademark will not prohibit other parties from using your intellectual property for fair use. Fair use is not a form of trademark infringement that could confuse consumers.
Another thing that is no less important is the use of trademarks. A trademark cannot be applied worldwide, but only in the country where you apply for it.
If you wish to obtain legal protection for a trademark in other countries, then you must apply separately in each country for which you wish to obtain legal protection.
Protecting A Trademark
Now is the time to talk about trademarks from the perspective of the business owner. You must decide to create a logo when you want to have a professional business.
When you design a logo yourself, you won't have a problem with what comes next. But what if you use a design service to design a logo? Don't worry; all you need to do is find a professional designer who will sign a transfer agreement stating that the designer will not use the logo for other parties.
Registering a trademark will take time and a lot of deliberation. However, not all logos are acceptable. If your logo is strong, the USPTO will approve it. If your logo is not very strong, it may be rejected. The strength of a logo can be seen in its uniqueness.
A logo trademark does not require the assistance of a lawyer. However, working with a lawyer will give you many advantages because they have experience.
These attorneys can help you save time and effort when filing trademark applications and handling paperwork. You can save more time and energy because the lawyer will make it easier.
What Should You Do If Your Application Is Rejected?
Rejection of a trademark does not happen without reason. Several things can cause your trademark application to be rejected. For example, the following reasons apply:
- The logo is too generic.
- The logo can confuse consumers with an existing logo.
- Your logo does not look like a valid ID or identification.
- Your logo contains satirical words.
- Your logo text has the wrong description or image.
You can appeal if you feel that rejecting the logo was wrong. Submissions can be made to the trademark office for review. However, you still have to accept the decision. If your logo is found to be ineligible, you should use your creativity to create a new one.
There are tips you can use to make a good, strong logo. A trademark needs to be unique but also have several other important elements. Make a logo with images and words that have never been made before, then associate your logo with the product or service you are running.
Do I Have to Register A Logo Trademark?
After running a business and having a logo, you have to think about registering a trademark, right? This isn't always the case, because there are several reasons why you don't need to register a trademark, which is a time-consuming and costly process.
The following are some circumstances in which you may not need to register a trademark for your logo or postpone it ahead of time.
1. The Logo Can be Changed
Are you not sure about your logo yet? Maybe you are thinking of changing it shortly. This can happen to some businesses that haven't had time to prepare their professional logo at the time of opening the business, even though they have to formalize their product or service immediately.
If you are in this position, you may plan to make a logo sober and then change it at a later date.
You may want to expand on the logo in the future. You don't need to register it as a trademark because the temporary logo you use will be replaced immediately. This will take a lot of your money, energy, and time. However, you should use a logo consistently to give it a more professional impression.
2. Temporary Business
Some people are not great at doing business. What if you feel that your business will only last a short time? This is a common feeling of worry. This could be because you feel like you just want to try something new or use it as a temporary sideline.
Businesses that appear not to be taken seriously or are hesitant may not need to register a trademark. Again, it will only waste a lot of time, energy, and money. It is better not to register a business logo or trademark that you are not sure will survive.
But if you have run a business so that it becomes big and successful, the story will be different. You probably need a professional logo and should register it as a trademark because it's all about being professional. A well-run business must have the right logo as well as valid legal protection.
3. Your Logo is Not Unique
Let's say you own a business in New Jersey. You have a logo to represent your product while running your business. Unfortunately, your logo looks like another company's logo in Oregon. You and the company both operate as small businesses for the local market.
If this is the case, you do not need to register it with the USPTO. Remember, using a non-unique business that already belongs to another company is dangerous.
It could be that your logo is similar to a brand that is already big and confuses consumers, so immediately change your logo. You will look less professional and even get into legal trouble with other brands.
However, several things above are exceptions. You can still register a logo as a trademark, which has many benefits. For example, you will get some advantages like the following:
- You have priority to use the trademark you registered. If you don't register it, other parties may arbitrarily use your logo.
- You have the right to sue those who use your trademark and even ask for compensation for their actions.
- You can stop the importation of foreign goods that might cause trademark infringement.
- You can expand your market by registering a trademark in another country.
When you run a business, having a logo is important. A logo must be unique so that consumers can easily distinguish it from those of other companies. Then, what if you use a logo that has been trademarked for your needs?
Well, you shouldn't use anyone else's trademark. This looks unprofessional, especially if it's for commercial purposes. Using a trademark for commercial purposes that can confuse consumers is a form of violation, so you will be penalized.
The punishment in question is not being put in prison but rather a ban on using trademarks and possibly fines or compensation.
A logo that has been trademarked has received protection from trademark infringement. Several things will be seen as a form of violation, and this requires a thorough and quite long process. It's better to use a logo that you designed yourself from creative ideas because that's the safest way.