As you start your new Tennessee business that will sell products, one of the first things you will want to do is to come up with a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of them, that will identify your company as the source of your products. You will want to do likewise if your new business will be selling services instead of products. In the first instance, you will want to create and register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in order to protect it as yours. In the second instance, you will want to create and register a service mark with the same office for the same purpose. Both a trademark and a service mark represent valuable intellectual property you will want and need to protect.

As you may already know, a trademark protects such things as the brand name, logo, mark and other identifying information you put on your products. A service mark protects the same types of things you want associated with your services. What you may not realize, however, is that trademark law can quickly become quite confusing, detailed and time-consuming. Your best interests may well dictate hiring a business law attorney who thoroughly knows his or her way around this highly specialized area of the law.

Designing your business mark

When you start designing your business mark, a/k/a logo or trade/service mark, the most important things you need to keep in mind are that in order to register it with the USPTO, thereby receiving the legal protections you need, it must be unique enough that the public will not confuse it with the mark used by any other company selling similar goods or services. While this sounds simple on its face, you need to take the following into consideration:

  • How does your mark sound when someone says its name out loud? If it sounds phonetically equivalent to someone else’s mark, even though spelled differently, the USPTO likely will reject your trademark application.
  • How does your mark look? If the words you use are the same as those used by someone else, even though you use a different font or letter style, your trademark application likely will not pass muster.
  • What does your mark’s word(s) mean? Remember, we are not talking about only the English language here. If one or more of the words you want to use as part of your mark are those of a foreign language, you cannot use it or them if they are too similar to another company’s mark containing the English translation of the word(s).
  • What commercial impression does your mark give? No part of your mark, either word or design element, must be confusingly similar to any part of another company’s mark.

Many additional considerations go into choosing a strong, unique business name and mark that will not confuse the public as to the source of the goods and/or service your company will sell. Again, creating a valid trademark or service mark is not for the faint of heart. It requires a considerable amount of research, knowledge and creativity.