Protect Your Restaurant’s Name
Guest Post by Josh Gerben of Gerben Law Firm
It was Shakespeare who first asked the question, “What’s in a name?” — and when it comes to small businesses like restaurants, the answer is everything. A company’s name is its identity, its brand, and its way of being distinguished by customers. That’s why protecting your restaurant’s name is so important.
How to Protect Your Restaurant’s Name
Securing your restaurant’s specific name involves more than declaring it yours. Whether you’ve been in business for decades or months, you still must take proper precautions in order to protect your name from being used elsewhere. Here’s how:
- Understand the Different Types of Protection: According to the National Restaurant Association, “The first step to protecting your name is deciding what can be used as a trademark or service mark.” While a trademark can apply to anything used to distinguish your restaurant from others (i.e., your name, your logo, etc.), a service mark can apply to anything used to distinguish your services.
- Trademark Your Name: To protect your restaurant’s name throughout the country, you’ll need federal protection, so you’ll need to file your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You should always hire an attorney to assist with this process, as it is a legal proceeding, and the federal government can easily refuse the application if it is incorrectly completed. In addition, prior to filing the trademark, you will need to research existing restaurant trademarks before applying for yours to make sure another business with your name hasn’t already trademarked it. The USPTO website has a searchable database available; however, the search you can do on any website is extremely limited. A trademark attorney will assist you in determining whether a trademark is truly clear for use as your restaurant’s name.
- Use Trademark Symbols: Once you’ve properly registered and certified a trademark and received the certificate in the mail, you should use the ® symbol everywhere you use the trademarked name. Be sure to only use this symbol when you’ve actually received the certification; otherwise, you are violating federal law and will run the risk of having your trademark application denied as a result. The other two types of trademark symbols are ™ and SM. The ™ is the one that represents goods, and SM is the one that represents services. Therefore, for your restaurant, use the small capital letters SM to represent your restaurant services.
- Monitor for Infringements: Here’s the part of trademarking a lot of businesses miss. After you’ve properly trademarked your name and/or services, it’s your responsibility to guard against infringements. Set up Google Alerts to monitor for the use of your name online. Engage your entire team in watching for other businesses copying your logo. When you discover infringements, send cease-and-desist letters that request removal.
Why Protecting Your Name Is Necessary
Protecting your restaurant’s name is necessary for a few reasons, including:
- Easier Expansion Later: While this may seem hard to imagine for a brand-new restaurant business, most franchises started out as single location — and you set yourself up for growth down the line when you protect your name. When your name is protected now, it’s also protected later when you want to expand and open additional locations.
- Fewer Copycats: There’s nothing more discouraging to a business owner than having your ideas stolen — but when you don’t take the necessary precautions to protect your restaurant’s name and/or other identifiers, you make it all too easy for someone else to steal them. Just like you wouldn’t give away your recipe secrets, you shouldn’t give away your brand.
- Solid Branding: The whole point of a unique name and branding is that it distinguishes your brand and makes you stand out. If every restaurant were called “The Restaurant,” how would people talk about them without confusion? Legally protecting your name and unique business components is a vital way to protect what makes your restaurant yours.
Have you already trademarked your restaurant’s name and/or services? If not, what are you waiting for? Consult with an attorney about protecting your brand for years to come.
Josh Gerbenis the principal of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a firm that focuses on trademark law and services. Gerben Law works with restaurants looking to protect their assets through trademark registration via search and application processes. If you are looking to police your trademark, reach out to Gerben Law Firm, PLLC.