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Trademark vs. Brand: Differences and Similarities

Trademarks and branding are both crucial to the success and reputation of a business. However, many people often conflate trademark and brand and use the terms interchangeably, even though they are different. It’s essential to know these differences and similarities.

What is a Brand?

There is a lot to unpack with the term brand because it encompasses so much. A brand is the representation of a business and its reputation in the public eye. The brand is essentially the company image, which is created through careful branding.

The company brand is something that is curated and built over time. Branding will consider a range of elements.Branding includes the identity and image of the business, the business character and personality, and the company’s culture.

The brand name can identify the name of a company or a specific product. When people think about a company, that company’s branding is often what comes to mind. For example, if you think about McDonald’s, you might imagine the golden arches in your head and the color red. If you think about Nike, you might imagine the swoosh and the phrase “Just Do It”.

Now here’s where things can be confusing for some. Those examples include all branding—logo, color, phrase. However, the logo and the phrase can also be trademarked, which will keep other companies from using them, so consumers are not confused. We’ll discuss more about trademarks below. For now, let’s examine branding further.

Good branding is always important, as it will help companies to get recognition from consumers. The more people see the branding elements, whether it’s on products, through social media, or on the company website, the more familiar they will become. They will know more about the company’s culture and goals and the products and services they offer.When branding is done well, it can increase the business value, generate new customers, and improve the satisfaction and pride of the employees.

Additionally, good branding helps to create trust in the marketplace. It helps to build trust with current customers, potential customers, and the general public. Branding is the “face” of the company. Branding also supports advertising, and the two are often tied together.

The marketing efforts of the company incorporate the various branding elements and help to make the brand stronger. Eventually, as the brand grows, it makes marketing easier because people are already familiar with your brand.Because the name and certain branding elements are important to the company’s success and protection from copycats, they will often trademark those elements.

What is a Trademark?

All trademarks are brands. However, not all brands are trademarks. The trademarks are specific elements of your brand that have legal protection. Trademarks can be the company name or particular words and phrases intrinsic to your company’s brand. Trademarks can also be trade dress, a term used for a combination of elements that identify the company. Trademarks could include logos, shapes, design layout, color combinations, and other parts of your brand that you believe need protection. These additional elements need to be unique to your company.

There are two types of trademarks—basic and registered. If you have a basic unregistered trademark available for you when you create and use any features that are unique to your brand, you have a basic trademark that is not registered. You can use ™ on the logo, phrase, etc., to indicate this free, basic trademark. It can help to provide your brand with a limited amount of protection. However, it’s not going to give you quite as much protection as you think.

If someone else were to start using those elements of your branding where you are using the ™, it would be on you to prove that the mark was yours first. Proving that the mark is your is often challenging to do, it can tie you up in a legal battle, and there is the risk that you will not be able to keep your branding and company properly.

On the other hand, you can opt to get a registered trademark. Getting a registered trademark is considered a better option in the vast majority of cases. It is a cost-effective means of keeping your business safe from thieves who would try to copy your branding to take away customers or potential customers. When you have a registered trademark, you will use the ® symbol on your branding. The ® symbol shows that you have gone through the requirements of registering the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

When you have a registered trademark, it will help to keep your brand identity safe. This includes the phrases, logo, names, symbols, and other imagery used to represent your business and what you offer. If another company or individual were to try to use your trademarked material, or if they infringe on that material, you will have an easier time from a legal perspective when you have a registered trademark.

Do not make the mistake that many other entrepreneurs and small businesses have made in the past and forgo the registered trademark. There are too many problems that could arise if you only use the ™. While it can work as a placeholder, you want to register for the best protection properly. It’s vital for the overall success of your business.

Get Help with Registering Your Trademark

Having a strong brand is essential, but you can’t forget the importance of registering your trademark. Even though it might seem like it will take a lot of research and effort to get the ®, it is well worth it. However, you don’t have to try to do it all on your own. Instead, you can hire trademark professionals who can handle all of the trademark search and the necessary work to get the job done. Work with a team that can research the marks you need, file and process the application, and help you each step of the way.