How To Know Your Trademarks As A Franchisor: Infringement Protection
The registered trademark symbol (®) is a symbol that gives the public notice that the preceding word or symbol is a trademark or service mark that’s been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Today we explain just what you need to know about trademarks as a franchisor.
A trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. The use of trademarks and protecting their value are integral components of a franchise. They represent and protect the franchise brand and create brand strength through their continued use.
It’s important for franchisors to note that brand strength is viewed in terms of customer perception—it’s not the view of the franchisor that’s critical. Sometimes, this contrast can get lost. The crucial aspect is always the customers’ perception of the brand.
The Importance of Trademark Protection
Trademark protection means consistency. Of course, that’s one of the key characteristics of a successful franchise chain. Franchisors should make every effort to send exact messages to their customers. Trademarks protect that message. The mark must be spelled exactly as it appears on the registration. The means no additional punctuation, variations in color, or changing of the words. Exact means precisely that. Any change will be considered a different trademark, which would weaken the original mark. The continued improper use further dilutes the franchisor’s registered trademarks.
This consistency with trademarks must also be imparted to all franchisees. Franchisors must be diligent to monitor their franchisees’ use of the trademarks… going beyond the obligations of the franchise agreement. It’s a good idea to incorporate a system of oversight into the franchise operations to ensure that the franchisor’s trademarks are used in a manner consistent with registration.
Trademarks As A Franchisor – Be Aware
As part of this heightened awareness of monitoring franchise trademarks, franchisors should watch for changes in the brand in the eyes of a consumer. Again, customer perception is critical in trademark protection. When you’re wokring on trademarks as a franchisor you need to be aware of the ones that don’t incorporate a logo or design should be monitored very closely.
Analyze how customers refer to the brand and register any variations of your trademark you see them using. For example, if “Jack and Don’s Auto Repair” is frequently called simply “Jack and Don’s” or “J&D’s,” you should consult with your intellectual property attorney to determine if those variations can be registered for the business.
Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark (or a substantially similar mark) on a competitor’s related goods and services.
If the trademark owner is able to prove infringement, there are several remedies available. They include the following:
· a court order (injunctive relief) that the defendant stop using the accused mark;
· an order requiring the destruction or forfeiture of infringing articles;
· monetary relief, including defendant’s profits, any damages sustained by the plaintiff, and the costs of the action; and
· an order that the defendant, in certain cases, pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.
However, a court may also conclude that there’s no infringement on the trademark, a defense bars the plaintiff’s claim, or there are other reasons why the trademark owner isn’t entitled to win the case.
Contact a Business Advisor in Sacramento
Create a culture of trademark consistency in your organization. Franchisors and their franchisees must use the company’s protected marks correctly to ensure that the franchisor’s trademarks remain strong and economically valuable in the eyes of its customers. That’s the most important information you need to know about trademarks as a franchisor.
Andrew Rogerson specializes in helping business owners sell a business. Services include business valuations, marketing the business, negotiating the transaction as well as third-party lending, due diligence and escrow. He is the author of four books on business ownership called Successfully Start Your Business, Successfully Buy Your Business, Successfully Buy Your Franchise, and Successfully Sell Your Business. For more information visit the franchise section of his website or call Andrew Rogerson at (916) 570-2674.