Your e-commerce website is a great tool for selling your products and services online. If your business is growing there are chances that others might want to make a copy of your website or some of its features to cash in on the popularity. There is also the added risk of your online store being accused of unauthorized use of other people’s intellectual assets.
The perfect solution for this is to get a trademark. In the United States, you can easily get a trademark for products and a servicemark for services. Before we learn about the process of e-commerce trademarking let us understand a few basic things about the trademark.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a recognizable sign that can include a word, name, symbol, or design, or combination of any or all these items that is intended to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others. It indicates the source of the goods.
Similarly, servicemark differentiates between services provided by two different businesses. Most e-commerce sites try and register a servicemark whereby they can protect their logos, taglines, and slogans along with the brand name.
When we are talking about trademarks and servicemarks we need to understand that they are of two distinct types – registered trademark or unregistered trademark. Let us take a look at each of these in detail.
To make use of these trademarks all that a business needs to do is to simply place the trademark symbol (™) anywhere on the brand name, advertising slogan, or graphic design. The business can easily display the unregistered trademark on letterheads, emails, invoices or packaging items.
There is however one major downside to it, the same logo, brand name and slogans might be used by other businesses. And in case of a dispute, the company that can prove to have used it first wins rights over it.
As the name suggests a registered trademark is one that is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The biggest advantage of having a registered trademark is the fact that in case of any legal dispute over the trademarked items you can easily claim ownership over the registered items. It also allows you to file suit against the copycats and claim compensation.
A registered trademark can easily be extended to other nations. This type of trademark is represented by the symbol (®).
Why Ecommerce Sites Need a Trademark
It is quite an irony that most e-commerce startups don’t think they need a trademark. But it is important that you at least make use of an unregistered trademark symbol (™) next to your logo, brand name, and taglines. There are several advantages of owning a trademark (®) and some of them are:
- Your business might be small at present but has the potential to grow in the future.
- Your business model is niche and might be copied.
- If you want to seek investment in future or apply for a business loan a trademark adds to your advantage.
- Trademark can also add to your advantage if you are planning to sell your ecommerce site.
How to Make Use of a Trademark
The process of using a trademark in the United States is very easy. It hardly takes time to make use of an unregistered trademark (™). Registering a trademark (®) isn’t difficult as well. Let us take a look at the steps involved in getting a trademark. The first two steps are common for both registered as well as unregistered trademarks. Step three is meant only for registered trademarks.
Step 1: Choose a Trademark That Is Eligible
Before you select trademarks make sure it is eligible for trademarking. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) usually restricts trademarks that are generic, descriptive, or can cause confusion among the customers. For instance you can’t register a trademark ‘Microsft’ as it can lead to confusion with ‘Microsoft’. Similarly, you can’t register ‘ecommerce store’ as this term is generic.
To choose a trademark make use of the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Also Google to find out that your potential trademark isn’t being used by some other brand as an unregistered trademark.
Step 2: Use A Unregistered Trademark
As discussed earlier all that you need to do is add the unregistered trademark symbol (™) on your logo, tagline or in the footer section of the online store to make use of the unregistered trademark.
Step 3: Use A Registered Trademark
To use a registered trademark you can file an online application using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). There are several forms in this system and you will have to choose your class from around 1400 classes of business.
Online stores fall under the online retail businesses which is class 35. You will have to upload the logo, slogans etc. during the registration process. You will have to pay fees of $275 to $325 for the registration process and your trademark will be registered within a period of 6 months.