The following is an edited transcript of my video Filing Your Trademark Application Early: A Cautionary Tale.

It’s very important to file your trademark for protection as early as possible for a variety of reasons.

One reason is that USPTO takes a really long time, but more importantly, protection begins in many instances when the trademark application is filed, and so it can be a big difference filing now versus filing a year from now. Your protection may be limited in that interval, as illustrated here.

A local coffee shop opened up many years ago with a creative, unique name. They were a regional business here in the Washington DC area, and they went about building their business and brand, and did not file with USPTO. They did not think about national trademark protection. Turns out that another coffee shop using the same wording, opened on the other side of the country a few years later.

A few years passed, and then the local coffee shop began to revist trademark protection, “We should invest in protecting our brand, maybe someday we’ll have locations in other areas, let’s look into filing at the USPTO.” Well, the other business  across the country filed before them. Now the coffee shop was were faced with potentially spending money to dispute with this other business across the country, or with possibly losing the ability to use the name outside of the local area where they already established a customer base. Their opportunities to expand using this name—even though they were the first ones to come up with this name for the coffee shop—may be limited or denied as a result of this.

At a minimum, the situation for the local coffee shop is now more complex, more time-consuming and more expensive for the brand, and they very well may end up with less protection than they almost certainly would have had they filed to protect and register the trademark nationally early on when the business was launched.

I share this story, because it is important that we educate other small businesses about why trademark registration – and the timing of it – is important and has a real impact on real businesses. Any business has the potential to grow beyond a local business, and should think about filing for national trademark protection from the outset.

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