Trademark Your Brand

One of the basic goals of successful Internet marketing is to build and maintain a recognizable and reputable brand online. As a website owner, one way you can protect your brand is to trademark images and phrases important to your business, including logo, company name, product names and slogans. By registering these phrases, you enjoy benefits such as:

• Greater protection – When you register a trademark, you defend your key names and phrases from use by other companies in your nation and industry, which can dilute your brand.

• Increased company value – Your trademarks are considered part of your intangible assets.

• Ease of obtaining foreign trademarks – By registering a trademark first in the U.S., you make it easier to attain a trademark in other countries to expand your brand protection.

However, although trademark registration gives you greater legal rights in case of a possible trademark infringement, it does not grant you complete protection against any and all uses by other companies, especially online. In case of an infringement, there are a few steps your can take to safeguard your brand further.

Upon discovering that a trademarked phrase is being used by another company, first contact that company directly and ask them to remove the infringing phrase from any advertisements and websites. In your correspondence, make sure to provide documentation showing where and how the trademarked phrase has been used and proof of trademark registration.

If the other company ignores or denies your request for immediate removal, turn to the search engines for help. Yahoo!, MSN and Google each have copyright and trademark infringement policies in their terms of service to protect your intellectual property and will investigate infringement claims on your behalf. However, it should be noted that Google will only investigate alleged trademark infringements made in sponsored links, not search results. Although procedures vary from search engine to search engine, the website owner facing removal needs to provide the investigating department of the search engine with the following documents:

• Your signature as website owner, or the signature of a person authorized by you to act on your behalf (such as a lawyer)

• Description of the trademarked work that has been allegedly infringed upon by another user

• URL(s) of the alleged infringement on the Internet

• Your contact information, including your address, e-mail address and phone number

• Statement that you believe the use is an infringement of your trademark

• Copy of your trademark registration

After presenting these materials to the appropriate department of the search engine, your claim will be investigated. If trademark infringement is confirmed, the offender is legally obligated to remove the trademarked material from their ads and website or face more serious legal consequences.

You may also contact the web hosting provider of the company using one of your trademarks. Like search engines, web hosts have procedures in place, typically expressed in their terms of service, to investigate trademark violations. According to Go Daddy's terms of service, if improper use is found, GoDaddy will remove the material from its marketplace and auctions and suspend the user's account.

Keep your brand strong. Make sure to register and protect your trademarks.

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