As the owner of a professional land surveying business, you invest a great amount of time and money into your business before you even begin your first project. From researching and purchasing equipment, employing the latest technologies, to hiring skilled employees, and even simple things like printing business cards, your investment adds up. That doesn’t include the time and cost of education and licensing that got you to the point of owning and operating your own business. Your professional reputation becomes intertwined with these other assets to create a brand – your brand. As with any business, large or small, you need to protect your brand. There is one critical step you must not forget: register your trademark.
For a land surveying business, the most typical trademarks to consider registering would be your name, logo and slogan. Trademarks should differentiate your business from competitors and stand out to your customers. Obtaining a federal trademark registration will help you protect your business from infringement and maintain your positive online presence. In the future, as you look to expand your business into other areas or even sell your business to a potential buyer, having a registered trademark will provide you national validity and protection while increasing the overall value of your business.
Protect Against Infringement
The process to register a federal trademark begins with a comprehensive trademark search (learn more on how to do a search properly at https://
www.gerbenlaw.com/blog/how-to-conduct-a-trademark-search/). This will determine if another company has filed a same or similar trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If you discover that your mark may infringe on another business, it is best to learn this before you have begun to order items with your company logo, such as signs, marketing materials or even a website design. Moving forward without a comprehensive trademark search could prove extremely costly in the event you are forced to rebrand due to an infringement of another company’s trademark rights.
Some business owners choose to complete a trademark search without the assistance of an experienced trademark attorney. The challenge with this is that most search tools available to the public, including basic search engines and even those on do-it-yourself legal websites, only reveal exact wording matches. Most trademark issues arise not from exact matches, but from confusingly similar matches to names, symbols, or logos, which usually aren’t detected in a basic trademark search. (Take, for example, J.A. Doe Surveying Services Inc. and John A. Doe Surveyor LLC.) To be sure your mark will not infringe on an existing business, consider working with a professional trademark attorney from the beginning.
In addition to ensuring that you aren’t infringing on another business, beginning the federal trademark registration process as soon as possible also deters others from infringing on your business. The date you file becomes your national priority date. This means that anyone filing a similar mark after your priority date will not legally be able to register their trademark. You will also have legal grounds to take action against anyone that may infringe on your trademark in the future, because as long as you continue to offer your good or service (and file the necessary renewals), a trademark won’t expire.
Positive Online Presence
In a competitive industry, it can be challenging to stand out in a crowded marketplace. A customer seeking land survey services may find dozens of regional options in a quick online search – some even with similar names. A registered trademark, however, can provide a clear distinction between your land survey business and your competitors. (Think again about the J.A. Doe/John A. Doe example.) Your unique mark will help you stand out, and should help customers locate you through search engines or social media. Once your mark has been registered with the USPTO, you are able to use the ® [registered] symbol, which, to many customers, implies an additional level of legitimacy and professionalism, building on the solid reputation that you’ve worked hard to create.
With so many customers turning to the internet and social media to find service providers, it’s important to know that you have online rights to your mark as well. Having a federally registered trademark provides you legal rights in some domain name disputes. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act protects trademark holders from others that may register a domain name with the intent to profit off the mark. Common law trademarks do not offer the same protection.
A business that does not opt to register a federal trademark may still have common law rights to the mark. Unfortunately, common law trademarks may provide challenges when disputing possible infringement. In addition, common law trademarks only apply to the small geographic region where goods are sold or services are provided. This can severely restrict the growth of the business because it may not be able to expand without encountering infringement issues in another area. (John A. Doe may have common law rights in Pennsylvania, but encounter problems when trying to expand in New Jersey where J.A. Doe does business.)
A trademark registered with the USPTO, on the other hand, has nationwide validity. Once you register your trademark, you are protected from infringement throughout the country, not just your geographic region. If you wish to expand your business, or perhaps acquire another in a different region, you are free to do so. Additionally, registering a trademark with the USPTO will provide the presumption of validity if you decide to register your trademark outside the United States as well.
A Valuable Asset
Since opening your land survey business, you’ve purchased many assets from the latest survey equipment to vehicles for your employees to drive to work sites. While those purchases were essential to your business functions, they will likely not appreciate over time. A registered trademark, on the other hand, is one of the few business assets that will actually increase in value over time. As you grow your reputation and brand along with your client base, your trademark will grow in value along with the business.
Like any other asset, your trademark can be sold with the business, just as equipment or vehicles may be sold. Should you decide to sell your land survey business in the future, your registered trademark may greatly affect the value of your business overall. Potential buyers may place a higher monetary value on the peace of mind from knowing that you have already set in place protections against infringement and the goodwill you’ve developed with clients over time cannot be confused with another business with a similar mark.
Whether you are just beginning to write a business plan or you’ve owned a successful land survey business for years, now is the right time to consider registering your federal trademark. Protect your investment and your brand reputation now, as your business is growing, and in the future when you may consider selling your business. The legal protection you receive as a trademark owner is an invaluable asset, so take the essential step to register your trademark today.