Benefits of Trademark Registration
Do you Need A Trademark If You Have Incorporated Your Nonprofit?
Some people think that just because they incorporated or formed their nonprofit with their State that they do not need to apply for a federal trademark to own the name. Please know that registering your nonprofit with your state by filing Articles of Incorporation does not give you legal ownership of the name. Someone else in another state could have registered the exact same name and may have been using the name longer than you are – which would mean they have already acquired ownership rights to the name you are using. Let’s talk about how to protect your nonprofit’s name from counterfeits and identity theft through trademark registration. Here are three things you can do:
1. Register a federal trademark
The most important thing you can do to discourage others from imitating your nonprofit is to become the legal owner of the name by obtaining a federal trademark.
2. Use the ® sign
As a registered trademark owner, you will legally be able to use the circle-R when you refer to your nonprofit to put others on notice that you are the legal trademark owner. For example, when I refer to Revolution Leadership® I use the circle-R at the end to let others know that the brand is legally owned and protected.
3. Monitor your brand
Once you have registered your nonprofit’s name, you will want to sign up with a service to monitor the use of the name. There are companies that will monitor trademark filings for you as well as online activity to let you know if anyone else is trying to infringe on your ownership rights. You can also sign up for free Google alerts which will let you know if someone is using your charity’s name on the internet. Just search for the “google alerts” online to sign up.
Should You Get a State Trademark Registration or Federal Trademark Registration?
Instead of paying for a federal trademark, some people apply for a state trademark thinking it will give them the same legal protection. This is not true. A federal trademark has more weight than a state trademark.
If you register the name of your nonprofit for a state trademark and someone else registers the same name with the federal government for a federal trademark, their rights would likely be superior to yours. Meaning, they would likely be able to keep the name and you would have to use a different one and possibly be liable to them for damages. Trademark registration will help you protect your nonprofit’s name and any key designs.
Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration
There are a number of benefits to having a federal trademark to own the name of your nonprofit. Some of the benefits include:
- Ownership. The first benefit of having a federal trademark is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have legal ownership of the mark. This means that if another nonprofit in another city, county, or state desires to use your mark, they have to get your permission (unless their use falls within “Fair Use”). This prevents you from spending money buying a domain name, building a website, having a graphic designer create a logo, establishing social media profiles with a name, only to have to spend all of the money all over again because you had to take it down since someone else already owned the name.
- Make Money through Licensing. Another benefit of owning a federal trademark is that it provides another stream of income for your nonprofit. Meaning, once you have established a brand, you could license, or give other people the right, to use your mark on other products in exchange for paying you a royalty.
- Get Paid When People Wrongfully Use Your Mark. Owning a federal trademark also means that you have the right to sue someone in federal court for money damages if they use your mark without your permission.
- You Can Get International Rights. Federal trademarks protect your mark within the United States of America. However, if you decide that you want to protect your mark internationally, you can use the rights that you have as the owner of a federal trademark in the U.S. to help build your legal case to apply for trademark rights in other countries.
- Your Mark is Marketable. A federal trademark is considered intellectual property. This means that oftentimes corporations or foundations that may be interested in sponsoring your nonprofit may want to make sure that you won the rights to your brand before they make a donation. They do not want to risk spending money donating to a nonprofit only for it to be sued by someone else later which is a waste of their resources. Therefore, the mark is something that has value in the market and can be sold.
- Use the Symbol. Owning a federal trademark also allows you to use the “Circle-R” or “®” registered trademark symbol. This symbol puts everyone on notice that they cannot use it without your permission. If you use the registered trademark symbol without actually having registered your trademark, you can face federal penalties.
Trademarks are incredibly important when starting your nonprofit. Owning a federal trademark allows the owner to have peace of mind about the brand, make money through licensing, get paid when others wrongfully use the mark, get international rights, market intellectual property, and use the Circle-R symbol. If you have any questions about getting started with the trademark of your nonprofit, call Chisholm Law Firm to get the help you deserve!