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When Is a Trademark More Appropriate Than a Patent?

In this video, Rich explains when it is appropriate to seek trademark protection, instead of patent protection, for your idea.

Protect your good name

Patents are good for protecting the functional aspects of a product, for protecting the actual distinctive features of a product. Presuming that you’ve pursued that, and you’ve figured out whether your idea is patentable, and you’ve gotten protection in whatever way is appropriate for your idea, then it’s time to talk about trademarks.

Imagine that you’re about to launch a product. You’ve come up with a clever name and a logo for it, and you’re about to build a website that describes the product and has that product name and logo. Clearly, you’ll want to get that name and logo protected, so that other people can’t just jump on the bandwagon and use your name and logo to sell their own product—even if it’s something completely different from your product.

The other thing is, if you’re about to invest money in launching a product under a certain name, you want to be sure that you can use that name. Because it’s very possible that you can get pretty far into the launch process, and think you’ve come up with a unique name and logo, and you can spend money on the website and on promotion, only to find out that there’s someone else who’s telling you, “Hey! This is my name!” And they’re asking you to stop using it. Whatever money you’ve spent to promote that name—including all the advertising you’ve done and all the good will you’ve developed—will be wasted.

So you want to have the right type of trademark research done at an early stage, before you start using the name. At the point where you’re ready to start using a name, you should really investigate whether it’s the right name, whether it’s protectable, and whether you’re going to be stepping on someone else’s toes by using it. And when you’re sure you’re good to go, get it protected.