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Trademarks are your first step to protect your brand

As you start a new company or business, you want to make sure that you protect the brand you've worked so hard to create. You probably spent months or years branding yourself. This includes designing a logo, coming up with a color scheme, working on slogans and much more.

It's easy to see how important this is. Even if these sound like little details, think about how quickly you recognize well-branded companies. If you see a brown box truck, for example, you know it's a UPS truck even before you see that logo.

You also want to trademark your company name. This way, someone can't copy your company exactly and try to steal your customers or build on your success.

Generally speaking, you can only trademark a name if it's exclusive to you and not some generic term. For instance, you may be starting a computer company, but the word "computer" can't be trademarked. Pairing something else with it to make it your own, though, allows you to get that trademark. For example, Apple Computer is a trademarked company name.

As that example shows, even generic words can sometimes be trademarked outside of their expected industry. "Apple" is certainly a generic term in farming and produce, but not in computers.

Once you come up with that perfect name, the ideal logo, a catchy slogan and everything else, take a moment to protect yourself before your business officially launches. Trademarks are the first step, and it's best to have everything squared away in advance. Even if you've already launched, though, you can still look into trademarks and copyrights to secure your brand.

Source: Entrepreneur, "Protecting Your Brand with Trademarks," John Williams, accessed Oct. 13, 2016

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