In the fantasy short story, The Rule of Names, Ursual K. Le Guia writes: “The name is the things, and the true name is the true things. To speak the name is to control the thing.”
In that fantasy, names were truly powerful and true names were magical. In the hustle and bustle of business, names are no less magical. The name of your business is probably the first thing you thought about once you decided what your business was. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you spent hours agonizing over what to call your business or what your tagline would be and you were thrilled when you found the perfect words to express the soul of your business.
Now imagine that after experiencing that magic and having your clients find and understand you with that name, you lost the ability to use it. That was the heartbreaking position a client of mine found herself in a few years ago. A perfect name that, alas, was being used by someone else who had thought to trademark the name before my client. A cease and desist letter was sent, followed by a threatened court battle and a long and expensive rebranding exercise.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office defines a trademark as “a combination of letters, words, sounds or designs that distinguishes one company’s goods or services from those of others in the marketplace.”
A trademark is unique. It can belong only to one business and it is crucial because over time, a trademark comes to stand not only for the actual goods and services you sell, but also for your company’s reputation and brand.
What could happen if you don’t protect your trademark?
- Confusion in the marketplace. If some other business has the same or similar name, it may be easy for potential customers to confuse the two of you. Not only could you lose business to that impostor, but if they don’t serve clients with the same high level of service as you do, your hard-earned reputation could go down the drain.
- Loss of name. If you and another business are using the same or similar name to market similar goods or services, whoever registers for trademark first is going to have the right to use the name. They could then send you a “Cease and Desist” letter which will very kindly invite you to stop using the name unless you want to be sued for all the profits you make from the name and all damage caused to the other party. Once they have that Trademark registration and are using the name in business, there’s nothing you can do but to rebrand, which is a costly and painful exercise.
- If your business name and your personal name are one and the same or your business is highly personal and there is no way that a client could mistake someone else’s goods or services for yours, a trademark just isn’t a huge deal in your world. If you have a valuable tagline or logo that helps you bring in clients, that’s another story as you’ll want to protect your money-makers.
Want to find out whether you would benefit from protecting your brand? Book a complimentary consultation with me and let’s chat
Did you find this helpful? Be a great friend and share the knowledge.