You have a restaurant and it’s going well: tables are filled, patrons are happy, and you feel confident in your foodservice business. Maybe you’re considering opening another location, or thinking about franchise opportunities. But at what point do you need to trademark, and what does it mean for your business’s brand? Here’s a quick overview of what a trademark is, when you need to get one, and how to do it.
What a trademark is
The whole point of a trademark is to identify and distinguish one brand from another, and to protect it from being infringed on – someone else copying or stealing your intellectual property. Intellectual property refers to your restaurant name or slogan, any symbols or logo designs, or a combination of these – like your menu, that make up your restaurant’s brand.
Do I Need a Trademark?
You can simply put the ™ symbol at the end of your logo, which is known as a common law trademark, or first use. It’s free to do this and will protect you from copyright infringement to an extent. However, owning your trademark is a good idea for growth and expansion of your brand, and is considered a registered trademark, which carries this symbol: ®.
How to get a trademark
Go to uspto.gov, the US Patent and Trademark Office and start with a search. It’s not mandatory, but it’s helpful to know if there are any similar trademarks to yours, or if what you intend to trademark has been taken already. The search is free, so it’s recommended before you start any official paperwork.
Once you’re sure that you’re in the clear with your name and design elements, you can start the application process. You’ll have to get actual confirmation and approval. The USPT will look to make sure that your trademark isn’t similar enough to one that currently exists, as to avoid “customer confusion”.
What else should I know?
Trademark registration can cost from around two hundred dollars to upwards of about a thousand dollars per item. You can hire a trademark specialist to do the administrative work for you: searching the trademark database for competing trademarks, filing the paperwork, checking in on the application, and finishing the process, which will carry additional costs. If you’re eager to have it done and don’t have the time or bandwidth, a specialist can be really helpful, but remember you’ll pay them in addition to the cost of the paperwork.
Trademarking your restaurant isn’t a must, but it might be a good idea if you have plans for big growth, or are eager to protect your name and logos from competition that might be out to copy your ideas.
About the Author
Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.More Content by Andrea Victory