Trademark can be legally registered word(s), names or symbols that represent a company or product. An individual or business may file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register their trademark. If an unauthorized third party uses or replicates your trademark to sell its own goods and services, it can be considered trademark infringement. As the trademark holder, it is your responsibility to uphold your brand and put a stop to the infringement.
Once you determine your trademark is being used without your permission, act quickly and take all necessary steps to protect yourself or your business from fraud.
When Does Trademark Infringement Happen?
There is a fine line between being close and being a nearly identical copy of a trademark. If two companies share the same name but their products, logos and branding are completely different, that would not be considered trademark infringement. However, if two competing companies produce the same product, and one releases a “knock-off” product with identical branding that could easily confuse consumers, that might be considered trademark infringement.
What Are the Steps for Challenging Trademark Infringement Once It Has Occurred?
- Prove trademark infringement and apply the “likelihood of confusion” test (a term used by most federal courts to decide if a consumer could be confused by a logo, branding, product or tagline).
- Contact a trademark infringement attorney to discuss your options.
- Write and send a cease-and-desist letter to the person or company infringing on your trademark. You are essentially requesting that they stop using your trademark immediately. This is where a lawyer’s help is useful because they can ensure you include the necessary information and terminology.
- If the infringer refuses to stop producing counterfeit or trademarked products, you can then file a lawsuit. If the offending party is based in another state outside of Minnesota, the lawsuit will be filed in federal court. At this stage, you may be able to claim damages depending on what proof you have.
What Proof Do You Need to Collect Damages in a Trademark Infringement Lawsuit?
- Proof that you or your business was hurt financially
- Proof that the alleged individual or company made money by infringing on your trademark
How Can Trademark Infringement Diminish a Person or Brand’s Reputation?
Counterfeit products are often made quickly using materials of poor quality. Trademark infringement can make it difficult for a consumer to differentiate the true product from the counterfeit. They may associate the knock-off with the brand-name product and assume all the company’s products lack durability and quality.
These types of situations can damage a company or product’s reputation very quickly, especially in the age of social media we live in today. Alternatively, a competitor copying your work may simply be stealing sales that your company has earned through brand and reputation building and years or decades of expensive marketing investments.
How Can Trademark Infringement Affect the Supply Chain and Consumers?
Producing a product or offering a service that mimics a registered trademark is not only dangerous for businesses but for consumers as well. Infringing on a trademark has legal and financial consequences.
- If a counterfeit product is defective or potentially harmful, it can pose a threat to consumers and their safety. Exploding electronics or ineffective drugs are just two potential examples of this.
- Misleading or failed counterfeit products that are subject to legal claims (i.e., replacement or monetary damages) can disrupt the supply chain and cause financial implications that can lead to business collapse.
Hire a Trademark Infringement Attorney in the Twin Cities
Similar to a trademark, your intellectual property is also protected under copyright law, which means that your original creative work is owned by you. For example, the moment you snap a photo with a camera or design a logo, it immediately belongs to you.
If you believe your trademark or copyright has been infringed upon, contact the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) at (612) 752-6699. Our team of dedicated referral counselors will point you in the direction of a local trademark infringement attorney who can help.