Trademarks are a critical tool for financial marketing and brand development. However, many FinTech and mortgage service providers don’t do enough today to protect their brand. There are many instances where a lack of proper trademark usage can harm your business. As a company, you need to understand what you can and cannot protect and right now, financial service providers often do not do enough to protect their brands.
To understand what is protectable, you have to know what a trademark is NOT, namely, copyright, patents and trade secrets, which are covered under different areas of the law. A trademark identifies the source of goods and services and distinguishes one source from another and signifies control over quality. Trademark laws protect your investment in a brand, prevent competitors from getting a free ride at your expense and protect buyers from confusion.
What does a trademark look like?
- Letters: EXXON or HSBC
- Numbers: 7-Eleven
- Abbreviations: IBM or Amex
- Words: Tide or Ford
- Domain name: Amazon.com
- Taglines: “You are in good hands…” or “What’s in your wallet?”
- Symbols: Nike’s swoosh or Wells Fargo’s Stagecoach
- Trade dress: shape of Coke bottle
- Sound: NBC chime
An important legal concept is that the mark is distinctive, not descriptive. For example, “Super Glue” is not protectable because the name is descriptive of the product, but not distinctive.
There are many concepts for developing company names, two of the most common are:
- “Arbitrary” use of common words, such as Apple for computers
- “Coined” words, such as Google for search engine.
The bottom line is to protect your company’s brands that have value and when developing new company brands, use names that can be protected.