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Hopefully you already know that protecting your small business's intellectual property is essential to your success. But you might not know the best ways to do it. For example, the differences between trademarks, copyrights, and patents can be difficult to discern, and there are cases where you may not need to actually file a trademark to have the benefits of trademark protection.
You may not even know the questions you need to ask to get started. Lucky for you, we've pulled some of the most important trademark questions from our archives, along with where you need to go for answers.
First, you need to know if it's really a trademark you need. Trademarks protect images, phrases, or logos particular to your small business, and can also protect your business's name from being used elsewhere.
Official trademark registration never hurts, but it's not always necessary to enforce the same protections. As soon as the trademark is used in commerce, those protections apply, though they may be limited in scope.
A trademarked logo or image has the tendency to change over time -- think of Apple shifting from the rainbow logo to the solid apple shape. "Tacking" allows businesses to show that the new trademark is still basically the same as the original, therefore continuing protections obtained by the original trademark.
You filed the trademark to protect your company, but just because you've trademarked something doesn't mean you need to fire off terrible cease-and-desist letters every time another company comes close to using your mark. Often, a little levity can go a long way in terms of trademark protection and customer relations.
Not all press is good press, and not all trademark battles have to be fought in a courtroom to be successful. Sometimes not looking like an IP bully can do wonders for your company's rep.