Michael Jordan sued a grocery store that used his image in a promotion without his permission. As a billionaire, he obviously didn’t need the money from the lawsuit (he announced he would donate any recovery to charity); he was making a point. He has a personal brand—his persona—and he has to protect it.
Michael Jordan’s brand is worth millions (it’s been reported that it earned him $100 million in 2014). But every company has a brand, which is defined as the company’s identity encompassing what it does and what it stands for.
Every business works hard to create a brand. Every business should work equally hard to protect its brand.
If you have a trade name, logo, or other indicia of your company for which you want exclusive use, you probably can trademark it. Registering your mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gives you optimum legal protection. They offer a 42-minute video covering the basics of trademark protection for small businesses. Once your mark has been registered, you can bring legal action against violators.
Registering your trademark in only the beginning. Once you’ve done this, you must follow up:
- Make sure to do needed additional filings at certain intervals.
- Protect your mark to prevent its generic use. You’ll surely recognize the following trademarks that lost protection because of generic use: aspirin, bubble wrap, escalator, kerosene, linoleum, popsicle, trampoline, and zipper (find more in a Business Insider article).
If you manufacture goods, be sure to watch for knockoffs that dilute your brand. You can find business tools to help you at the Federal Trade Commission’s StopFakes.gov.
Legal action such as the one taken by Michael Jordan may be necessary in the right circumstances. Consult with an attorney versed in intellectual property to determine whether you have a cause of action that should be pursued in order to protect your brand.
Companies such as BrandProtect and BrandShield offer brand monitoring services. These services include monitoring for trademark infringement, counterfeit sales, and other actions that can hurt your brand.