Trademark Infringement Attorneys
Providing Legal Representation to Help Clients Protect Their Intellectual Property
Getting to the point in your business when you have created the perfect logo, slogan, look, and feel of your unique brand and discover that your idea is threatened by a competitor who is purposefully using your brand identity and intellectual property assets for their own benefit, it may be hard to know what steps to take to protect yourself. Fortunately, trademark owners have several options to protect their rights and their business. The attorneys at Katie Charleston Law, PC, explain what a trademark infringement is and the crucial role an attorney can play in helping you protect your intellectual property.
What Is Considered a Trademark Infringement?
Trademark infringement is when a competitor uses the trademarked assets of a business without authorization. A trademark is a sign, design, or expression that identifies and distinguishes a product or service from other products or services. Think of the “M” and the unmistakable yellow signs you may look for when you want some fast food or the athletic goods brand that became famous for its slogan, “Just Do It.” These are examples of trademarks that cannot be used by anyone else without authorization.
If a competitor uses a trademark that is the same or too similar to a trademark owned by another company, it can lead to confusion in the marketplace. This confusion can result in customers being misled, resulting in a financial loss for the trademark owner. This is what happened in a recent lawsuit initiated by the 3M Company against a Chinese company after they branded their products as “3N” and used similar logos and colors as 3M, leading consumers to believe that they were purchasing the original 3M products. In this case, the court agreed with 3M.
This is a good example to illustrate one of the many ways trademark infringement can occur, such as using a similar name, logo, color scheme, or slogan. When a company or individual uses another party’s trademark without permission, it can lead to legal action if the original trademark owners have the grounds to initiate a trademark infringement lawsuit against the infringing party.
How Can You Stop Someone Else From Using Your Trademarked Assets?
If you are afraid that another person or business might steal your ideas and use the brand identity assets that you worked so hard to create for your company, it is imperative that you take the steps necessary to trademark your brand assets. Without a trademark registration, it is nearly impossible to assert your intellectual property rights and get a competitor to stop using your logo, name, slogan, or colors, for example.
If you already have a valid trademark, you may want to speak to a trademark lawyer to ensure that the issue you are concerned about is truly a threat to your business. In other words, just because someone else named their business similarly to yours does not necessarily mean they are infringing on your trademark rights if, for example, your business operates in a different state or with a different area of the market and there is a low probability that consumers will get confused by both brands.
In most cases, the first step before seeking trademark litigation is to try and reach out to the infringing party to let them know about the problem and ask them to stop using your trademarked assets. This can be done by sending them a cease and desist letter, which also gives them a deadline to stop using your trademark and explains they may be subject to legal action if they ignore your request.
What is Trademark Dilution and Likelihood of Confusion?
Trademark dilution and the likelihood of confusion are two of the most common grounds for a trademark infringement lawsuit. Trademark dilution or tarnishment happens when a competitor company uses the trademarked assets of another company (usually one that is more famous and has a better reputation in the marketplace). Their products are usually inferior, and the illegal use of another’s trademark to sell such inferior products can ultimately damage the reputation of the original trademark owner in the marketplace.
In contrast, likelihood of confusion can happen when one company’s brand assets (such as its name, logo, slogan, or colors) closely resemble another brand, much like the “3N” case mentioned above. The similarity between brands may cause consumers to mistake one for the other. In our example, many consumers ended up purchasing the inferior products produced by the Chinese company “3N” because they thought they were buying from 3M, which is a well-established brand.
What Kind of Remedies Are Available in a Trademark Infringement Case?
If it is determined that another company has infringed upon your trademarked assets and any attempts to get the infringing party to stop using your trademark without consent have been unsuccessful, your next step may be to pursue a lawsuit in civil court. In order to do that, it is highly recommended that you retain the services of a skilled trademark infringement lawyer to prepare your case for trial. The step of hiring an attorney is crucial for your case – this is because a trademark lawsuit is handled in a civil court, meaning it is up to the plaintiff to prove that the infringement occurred and that the plaintiff sustained financial damages as a result of the infringement.
The primary goal of most trademark infringement lawsuits is to get the infringing party to stop using your trademark for their own benefit. In legal terms, this is referred to as injunctive relief, and it basically means that the court can order the defendant to stop all infringing actions. In some cases, the court may also order that the items produced by the infringing party and that have the misused trademark be seized and destroyed. Forfeiture and destruction are more common in cases involving counterfeit goods and may result in the destruction or seizure of the counterfeit merchandise and the means used to produce them.
In other cases, the court may award the plaintiff monetary damages, which can vary depending on whether the defendant willingly infringed upon the plaintiff’s trademark and on how much economic harm the plaintiff sustained as a result of the infringement. Common examples of monetary damages a court may issue include reasonable royalties, actual damages, statutory damages, defendant’s profits, and treble damages.
How Can a Trademark Infringement Attorney Help?
It is estimated that less than three percent of all legal disputes, such as trademark infringement cases, end up in the courtroom. If your trademark is being infringed, a trademark attorney can help you protect your intellectual property and negotiate a solution with the infringing party before resorting to litigation.
However, if litigation is necessary, the help of a skilled trademark attorney can truly make all the difference in your case. If you believe someone else is using your trademark or have questions about protecting your intellectual property through trademark law, contact the trademark lawyers at Katie Charleston Law, PC, by calling (317) 663-9190 to discuss your case and learn how we can assist you.