When someone copies your business trademark, it can feel like they are stabbing you in the back. Not only is your hard work being stolen, but you may also find yourself struggling to compete with a larger company that has more resources. So what can you do? Here are four steps to take when someone copies your business trademark.
1. Know your rights.
When someone copies your business trademark, you might assume that this is unauthorized use of your company name and that you can file a suit for trademark infringement. However, the case is often more complicated than that. For one, there are potential defenses such as fair use when it comes to trademark infringement, so you can’t just assume that the other business is doing something illegal. Before getting too far down the what-if’s rabbit hole, consider using commercial litigation services to help you understand what’s happening and how it affects you.
Another thing to consider, the issue might only become relevant in a few specific states. What you can do depends on where your company is located, what trademark law applies to your state, and the nature of the mark in question. For example, common law trademarks don’t apply to some states such as Georgia while they do apply to others such as Illinois.
2. Do your homework.
One of the keys to successfully protecting your trademark is doing your homework before taking action. If you’re not familiar with trademark law, you might think that the other company is doing something wrong without understanding all of your options. So take the time to understand your rights before you approach the other company.
3. Approach the business directly.
One of the first steps you should take is to approach the business directly and request that they stop using your trademark. If you can settle the issue with a simple email, this is often the best way to go because it’s quick and less expensive than filing a lawsuit. Be polite, explain that they are using your company name without permission, and ask that they immediately stop doing so. If you find out about the infringement through a cease and desist letter, you should follow up with an email to the company confirming that you sent this letter and outline why they must stop using your trademark immediately.
4. File a lawsuit if necessary.
If your efforts to reach the other company fall flat, you might have no choice but to file a lawsuit. This is another area where doing your homework can pay off, as you’ll want to be familiar with the trademarks in question and have a strong case for infringement so you don’t waste time and money filing the lawsuit.
If you manage to win your trademark infringement lawsuit, you can ask the court for damages or an injunction to stop the other company from further infringing on your trademark. This could include monetary damages or an order requiring that the business change its name, depending on the situation.
Be aware that some businesses also use trademarks without permission on an unofficial or personal basis. If you see someone wearing your company’s T-shirt in a photo, for example, you might not be able to stop them from doing so. However, if you see someone using your company’s name around the office, you might be able to take action.
In summary, protecting your trademark is a complex process that depends on a variety of factors. However, a little knowledge can go a long way in ensuring that you’re using your company name legally and taking the right steps to protect it. If you’re struggling with trademark infringement, talk to an attorney!