Recently, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that folk artist Muller-Moore prevailed in his trademark fight against the Georgia Chick-fil-A restaurant chain. The battle was over the use “eat more kale” which, to Chick-fil-A, sounded too much alike to their trademarked slogan “eat mor chikin.” Muller-Moore places the “eat more kale” phrase on tee shirts and bumper stickers. After the Patent and Trademark Office granted his trademark application of “eat more kale,” Muller-Moore and his supporters celebrated outside the Vermont State House where Muller-Moore’s persistence and entrepreneurial spirit were hailed.
YSF magazine observed that, by definition, a trademark is a symbol, icon, phrase or some combination of them that “uniquely identifies your business from all others.” A trademark can be vital to the success of a business. In general, the purpose of trademark protection is to prevent other businesses from using anything you have properly trademarked, thus protecting both your business and whatever goods and services it sells to customers. Generally, trademark law is designed to prevent unfair competition by businesses that might unfairly seek to confuse customers as to the source of a product.
Entrepreneur magazine gives several reasons why trademarks are important to your business. First, trademarks have proven to be an effective communication tool sending a message about your company, its reputation, products and services. Second, trademarks help your business stand out from other businesses. They capture customers’ attention and can make your products and services stand out. Third, trademarks allow businesses to effectively utilize social media and the Internet. Consumers using Internet search engines can readily find your company and its products and services. Higher traffic on your website hopefully will result in higher profits. Fourth, trademarks of successful companies tend to appreciate over time and can prove to be a highly valuable asset.
Forbes magazine observes that it is crucial to protect one’s trademark. The infringement of a trademark can negatively affect your brand and your businesses’ profits. One reason why a business must take trademark infringement seriously is that “brand confusion is the number one brand killer.”
Inc. magazine notes that a company needs to “police” its mark. Specifically, it is a good business practice to monitor other companies’ use of phrases and images similar to yours so you can act quickly to nip in the bud any trademark infringement that is occurring. Some monitoring on a local level can occur naturally in the daily operation of your business as you watch and observe what nearby competitors are doing.
It is prudent to routinely check social media and use Internet search engines periodically in order to confirm that no one is misusing your trademark. Google provides a service called Google Alerts that can notify you on an ongoing basis about websites mentioning your trademark or which are using phrases similar to your trademark.
When you need to enforce your mark, it is worth thinking about having an attorney draft a cease-and-desist letter. Drafting such as letter requires both care and tact. A letter not worded carefully sometimes has the unfortunate propensity to backfire from time to time.
Seeking legal help
If you have a trademark that you believe is being infringed upon, you should contact a Georgia attorney experienced in handling intellectual property cases on behalf of businesses. If warranted, an attorney can draft a cease-and-desist letter aimed at protecting your trademark.