The following is an edited transcript of my video Do Restaurants Need Trademark Protection?
Over the years I’ve had the fortune to work with a tremendous variety of businesses as clients, from accountants, to real estate agents, to software companies, to clothing companies, to bloggers and websites. But I have a soft spot for restaurant clients, and that’s because not only do I love food and love restaurants, but my wife and my brother-in-law are actually the owners of two local restaurants here in Northern Virginia. And so while I try really hard to stay out of the restaurant business, other than sampling the food, I’ve seen the restaurant business from the inside, so to speak. In part because of that, I have a large number of restaurant clients. But restaurants come to me all the time and say, “Do I really need a trademark registration? Why does a restaurant need a trademark registration?” That’s the heart of what I want to talk about today in this episode.
Restaurants are prime candidates for trademark protection, and I’m going to give you a couple of reasons why.
The first is that a restaurant generally runs on a pretty tight budget, and the cost of a trademark issue or a trademark dispute can be tremendous for a small business like a restaurant. And so the protection and the insurance that a registered trademark gives can be tremendously valuable to help avoid a costly dispute and to help avoid and reduce the risk that the restaurant might have to rebrand or change its name. The cost of changing the signage and the menus at a restaurant alone can be a tremendous impact, I know as I’ve seen it happen to clients, unfortunately. The security that a trademark registration provides to help lower that risk is of tremendous value.
The second main reason that a restaurant can benefit tremendously from trademark protection is that without a trademark registration, protection for a localized business, like most restaurants, is limited geographically. So a restaurant here in the Northern Virginia area that’s operating successfully but does not have a federal trademark registration, really has no rights to block somebody from using that name anywhere else in the country. A very similar themed restaurant with a very similar or identical name could begin using it in San Francisco, or Boston, or Miami, or Tuscaloosa, or anywhere else in the country, and the restaurant here would have little or no chance of being able to stop or shut that down. Even though some people could be confused when searching online or when visiting one of those other areas; this is because it is a localized business geographically, and without federal trademark protection the common law rights – based on just use of the mark – are limited to the local area.
By registering federally, a business such as a restaurant expands their rights immediately to all 50 states. It puts everyone across the country on notice that they’ve claimed rights in the trademark; when you get the registration, it gives you rights across the country, in all states and territories. And so that’s a tremendous value to a restaurant, particularly to a restaurant that might someday expand or be bought or have partnerships or investors. Because now even a local restaurant might have issues with social media handles and domain names from competing businesses in other parts of the country, that’s another reason that it would be good to have the registration to be able to potentially stop restaurants from operating in those other areas.
So those are really two really significant areas that affect restaurants a lot. If you’re in the restaurant industry or any small business and you want to talk about why trademark protection would be a good match for your investment, in your brand, please reach out to me.