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What Every Business Needs to Know About Trademark Investigations

  • December 04, 2006
  • by PInow Staff

Businesses are becoming more worried about trademarks and with good reason, trademark infringement can undermine entire marketing campaigns and can even drive customers away. Trademark and intellectual property infringement investigations are the best way for companies to protect themselves.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1994 and 2002, the number of instances in which civil remedies were sought in patent, trademark, and copyright infringement cases increased by 20% -- to 8,254. Trademark violations are obviously big news. To businesses and companies, infringement can also mean big problems and big losses.

Trademarks are names, logos, symbols, jingles, words, or slogans that companies use to distinguish one service or product from others. Businesses put a lot of effort into creating and registering trademarks that will appeal to customers and create a strong brand image. Trademark violations occur when a business or person inadvertently or intentionally makes use of a logo, name, jingle, or other marketing tools from another business.

Trademark infringement may include:

  • Naming a business using a name that is identical or similar to the name of a similar business

  • Using similar products, packaging, logos, or services as other similar businesses in the same marketplace

When Businesses Make a Mistake Preventing Trademark Infringement

Any business wanting to choose a name for a company, service, or product needs to take steps to prevent lawsuits down the road. Casually selecting a name, logo, or slogan can mean big problems. Incidental trademark infringement is a simple mistake to make. New brand names and businesses are registered each day, and some words are trademarked as well, making business branding a bit of a landmine, especially for smaller businesses, which may not have the legal or money resources to fight a trademark infringement accusation.

In today's complex business environment, hiring a trademark or corporate investigator before naming any business, product, or service just makes sense. While in the past, businesses used the Internet or the federal database Trademark Electronic Search System (Tess) available through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, today's many trademarks and multinational companies mean that businesses need professional help to steer clear of inadvertent trademark infringement.

A professional corporate investigator with trademark experience can run international trademark searches and can help ensure that similarities (not just dead-on same names) do not sink a business' new endeavor. A professional trademark search service by a qualified private investigator can cost less than one thousand dollars but can save a company thousands in legal fees.

Keeping Companies from Becoming Victims: What Every Business Can Do to Secure its Trademarks

Just as businesses want to avoid infringing another company's trademark, every business also needs to take steps to avoid becoming a victim of trademark infringement. Most companies spend considerable time creating services, names, and brands before spending additional time and money advertising those products and services. Trademark infringement threatens to undermine all this hard work. Worse, trademark infringement can cause lost profits. A company using a similar name, service, or product can literally lure away business from the original trademark holder. Trademark infringement can also confuse customers and clients, costing a company business.

Every company can protect themselves by registering trademarks with the federal trademark office and then using the trade name on websites, advertisements, and other publications to establish the use of the trademark. Using the "" or tm symbol after all trade names can also help. Finally, staying alert for possible trademark violations and acting on them immediately can help reduce the business losses that can result from trademark infringement.

Even with all these precautions, though, businesses can become victims. That's why more companies are hiring private investigators with intellectual property and business intelligence experience. Experienced private investigators can help determine if any company is violating a trademark and can help gather evidence against any business who is infringing intellectual property rights. With a corporate investigator, a company can more easily get other businesses to adhere to trademark laws and can even get compensation for any business losses that have already occurred due to infringement. For many businesses, trademark and intellectual property infringement investigations are a smart investment.

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