The US constitution acknowledges both copyrights and Patents but has not mentioned trademarks.

The US Constitution & IP Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 8: “Congress shall have power to … promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” Trademarks are majorly what the consumer thinks. This therefore determines what the market looks like for certain goods. For instance, when a consumer looks at a product for the first time, understand that it communicates a brand.

Why should trademarks be protected?

Explaining why copyrights and Patents should be protected always seem easy because copyrights encourage creativity among creators and patents promote more innovations. However, trademark protection seems to promote competition among brands. Why then should trademarks be protected?
Trademarks act as informational shortcuts for consumers. They provide the consumers with a very efficient and informative way of making purchase decisions. In most cases, when the consumers go into a market they go directly to the brands which are best known to them out of a previous use or referrals from friends and family or based on brand research. If trademarks were not protected, there would be confusion on consumers on making purchasing decisions. Suppose that was the case the consumers would then pick on products based on their cheap prices instead of quality. Trademarks therefore encourage producers to produce high quality products for they have a brand’s reputation to maintain.

The Strategic Value of Trademark Protection

Understanding the imperative to protect trademarks goes beyond the mere safeguarding of a logo or a brand name. For startups, it’s about carving out a distinct market space, creating a durable business identity, and fostering consumer trust. In an ever-competitive market, trademarks act like a beacon, guiding your customers back to you amidst a sea of alternatives.

When you protect your trademark, you’re doing more than just securing a name or symbol; you’re protecting the very essence of your brand’s reputation and the expectations associated with it. This reputation, when consistently upheld, translates into a powerful competitive advantage. Customers are more likely to choose a product or service they recognize and trust over something unfamiliar, especially when quality is perceived to be guaranteed under the banner of a well-respected trademark.

Moreover, trademarks provide legal clarity and protection against counterfeiters and competitors who might want to leverage your brand equity for their gain. Imagine launching a groundbreaking product, only to find the market flooded with cheap imitations riding on your coattails. Without trademark protection, your startup’s innovations and marketing efforts might inadvertently benefit your competitors.

Building Customer Loyalty Through Effective Trademarking

At the core of trademark protection lies the potential to build and sustain customer loyalty. A trademark is not just a corporate asset; it’s a psychological anchor for your customers. It evokes emotions and brings back memories of their experiences with your brand. Every time your trademark is seen, it reinforces the qualities your company stands for, deepening the customer’s connection to your brand.

By ensuring these symbols of corporate identity are protected, startups can continuously reinforce their brand narratives. As you innovate and expand your product lines, the trademark serves as a consistent thread that ties the diverse aspects of your business together, presenting a unified front to the consumer. This consistency is key to maintaining customer trust and loyalty, which are crucial for the long-term growth and sustainability of your business.

Aiding Business Strategy with Trademark Insights

Lastly, the process of trademark registration itself can provide invaluable insights into the market dynamics of your industry. It forces you to research, understand, and think critically about how your brand fits into the broader market landscape. This can aid in identifying potential market gaps, evaluating the competitive environment, and refining your business strategy to better meet consumer needs.

Furthermore, trademarks can evolve into significant intangible assets on your balance sheet. As your brand’s recognition grows, the value of your trademarks increases. This not only boosts your company’s valuation but also opens up opportunities for licensing, franchising, and strategic partnerships, thus providing new revenue streams and expansion avenues.

Trademarks worth

Trademarks are more than informational shortcuts. They are intellectual properties which have value within them. For instance the word Apple alone values about $263 M and products containing the Apple logo or the Apple name are well known and have a high market among consumers.

The Real Value of Trademarks in the Startup Ecosystem

When we talk about trademarks in the context of startups, we’re not just discussing a legal formality. Instead, we’re diving into one of the most crucial elements of brand identity and market positioning.

Let’s unpack the tangible and intangible benefits of trademarks, illustrating not only their worth but how they can serve as pivotal assets in your business strategy.

Trademarks as Business Assets

Imagine your startup is the next big thing in the tech industry. The name, logo, or even a particular shape associated with your product becomes known for quality and innovation. That’s your trademark, and its value is not just in legal papers—it’s in every customer interaction, every product sold, and every marketing campaign.

As your startup’s reputation grows, the value of your trademark climbs. This is because your trademark is not just a marker of source or quality; it’s a symbol of your business’s reputation and market presence.

Amplifying Your Brand’s Visibility

A strong trademark doesn’t just differentiate you from the competition; it amplifies your visibility in the market. Consider how instantly recognizable symbols and names influence consumer behavior.

A trademark acts like a signal beacon that attracts and retains customers, creating an emotional connection. This connection is what can elevate your brand from being just another player in the market to becoming a household name.

Trademarks in Scaling Your Business

For startups looking to scale, trademarks can be a game-changer. With a registered trademark, you have the confidence to expand without fear of losing your brand identity or having competitors mimic your success.

Think of your trademark as a protective barrier that ensures your marketing efforts and brand development are not compromised or hijacked by others.

Strategic Partnerships and Investment Opportunities

With a well-recognized trademark, the avenues for strategic partnerships and funding opportunities broaden significantly. Investors and partners see trademarks as indicators of a brand’s potential longevity and market hold.

A trademark speaks of your startup’s professionalism and its preparedness to play in the big leagues. This is not just beneficial for attracting investments but can also be crucial when exploring cross-brand collaborations or licensing deals, which can open new revenue streams and expand your market reach.

Long-Term Financial Valuation

Beyond the immediate benefits, trademarks can significantly impact the financial valuation of your startup. They are considered intangible assets with a quantifiable value that can be reflected on your balance sheet.

As you grow and potentially look towards exit strategies, these assets can make your company much more attractive to buyers or for an IPO. The perceived stability and established market presence reflected by your trademarks can dramatically increase the value of your business.

Why are brands on the outward?

Brands are found on the outward of a product so that they can easily be seen and Identified by consumers. Additionally they are outward for display to others so that they can be appreciated the brand.

Also consumers express their identity with these brands and some go to the extent of putting body tattoos of these brands and having haircuts of their preferred brands and even some putting these brands on their products such as their cars etc. Generally people want to announce the brands that they associate with.

Exploring the Strategic Placement of Brands on Products

When we think about why brands prominently display their logos on the exteriors of products, it’s not just about aesthetics or branding—it’s a strategic maneuver that plays a crucial role in consumer psychology and market dynamics. Let’s dive deeper into why this visibility is not only strategic but essential for startups looking to make a mark in their industry.

Creating Instant Brand Recognition

The outward display of a brand is your first communication with your audience. Whether it’s on a laptop, a pair of sneakers, or a car, the logo serves as a visual shorthand for the values and quality the brand represents.

For a startup, establishing this immediate recognition is crucial. It means that every product that carries your logo is a walking billboard, a constant advertisement that works passively to promote your brand.

Enhancing Consumer Trust and Loyalty

Seeing a brand logo repeatedly can instill a sense of familiarity and reliability among potential customers. This is particularly important for startups, where establishing trust is often the biggest hurdle.

When consumers recognize a brand’s logo easily and frequently, they’re more likely to feel a connection to the brand, believing in its credibility and quality. This outward branding is a commitment to visibility that reassures consumers, “We’re here, and we’re reliable.”

Facilitating Brand Differentiation

In a crowded market, how your brand stands out determines not just consumer preference but survival. Displaying your brand outwardly helps differentiate your products from competitors.

It’s not just about being different; it’s about being the preferred choice because consumers recognize your logo and associate it with positive attributes. For startups, where every customer impression counts, effective use of this space can make the difference between being a market leader or a follower.

Leveraging Social Proof

Today’s consumers are influenced by more than just quality and price; they’re looking at what brands their peers are using. When a brand is displayed outwardly, it enables existing users to inadvertently endorse your product.

This social proof can be powerful marketing for startups aiming to establish a foothold in competitive markets. When people see others using your products, especially if those users are respected or aspired to, it increases the brand’s desirability and credibility.

What can be a trademark?

Traditional trademarks

Trade dress
Store layout

Non-traditional trademarks

These are highly dependent on secondary meaning.

Color alone as used on a product can be protected as trademarks. However for this to be the case, the color must be a distinctive feature for a product or a company. Additionally, they can only be protected as a trademark after establishing secondary meaning. The consumer must associate the said color from that product exclusively from that source.


A shape trade mark is a trade mark which consists of three-dimensional shape used to distinguish the goods of one trader from the goods of other traders. The ability to distinguish the goods or services from those of other traders is key to any sort of trade mark, as that’s precisely what a trade mark is – a distinctive sign (which can include shapes) that distinguishes one traders’ products or services from others. Probably the most well-known shape trade mark is the Coca-Cola contour bottle

Design of the product

The Apple phone’s design is one great example of a trademark. The design can easily be identified by consumers exclusively belonging to Apple products. For a design to be protected it must not be functional. For instance shoelaces on a shoe cannot be protected as part of a trademark because that may limit the functionality of the lace.

Layout of the store

The layout of a store can be protected as a trademark. A great example is the Apple store. If a consumer steps into it without reading the brands name they are able to identify that it’s an Apple store.

Another great example is a winery store layout which is unique and not similar to the traditional winery layout that are dark.

Traditional winery layout

Building Design

The design of a building can be protected as a trademark to distinguish it from other buildings and to mark a certain brand. Such a building is the Pizza Hut building.

Motion marks

The movement of a product can be used to protect it as trademark. For instance if the motion includes lighting like the hot doughnut logo showing what happens when light is added.

Another great example is the Lamborghini door. The trademark protects the backward motion of the door as its being shut.

Non visual marks

Sound marks

Certain sounds are used by specific brands as a brand mark and to distinguish between different brands. Such sounds can be protected to distinguish these brands from others. A great example is the Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s lion roar.

Scent marks.

Certain distinctive scents are used to mark specific brands. A brand’s scent can be marked as a trademark because it distinguishes it from all other brands. A great example is the Play-Doh. Without even looking at the brand’s name when Play-Doh is opened in an area it’s easy to identify it by its scent.

Tactile marks

These are marks that can be felt on a product that distinguish the product from other brands. These marks can be protected as trademarks. By touching these products one can easily identify them without necessarily knowing the name. For instance leather marks on a bottle.

Certification marks

These are marks not owned by the people who use them. The owners of these marks are third parties who certify the products and make available the marks to all people who meet certification requirements. The owners benefit from this by being paid a fee by the users of those certification marks. Examples are:-

Collective marks.

Trademarks or service marks for cooperatives, associations, or other collective organizations. For example the Certified Public Accountant mark.

Trademarks both registered and unregistered must be

• Used in commerce

• Distinctive

• Not functional (if trade dress)

Registered Trademarks

These are marks that are federally registered on principal or supplemental register. They are indicated by a circle surrounding an R as shown below.

Unregistered marks

These are marks which the owners believe are trademark. They communicates that the name & design are under the owner’s property. They are represented by a circle surrounding the letters TM as seen below.

Navigating the Waters of Trademark Registration

For startup founders, understanding the nuances of both registered and unregistered trademarks is not just about legal compliance—it’s a strategic component of your brand’s identity and its positioning in the market. Let’s delve deeper into why maintaining these standards is critical and how it can elevate your business.

The Crucial Role of Usage in Commerce

Trademarks, whether registered or not, must actively be used in commerce to hold any weight. This means your trademark should be visible on your product packaging, marketing materials, and online platforms, essentially anywhere your product interacts with the market.

This visibility not only reinforces brand recognition but also legally supports your claim to the trademark by demonstrating its active role in commerce. For startups, this is crucial because it establishes a track record of your brand’s presence in the market, which can be vital for both protecting your trademark and enhancing its value over time.

The Power of Distinctiveness

The distinctiveness of a trademark is what sets your brand apart from the competition. A distinctive trademark is instantly recognizable and unique to your brand. It could be a clever play on words, a visually striking logo, or even a particular color scheme associated uniquely with your brand.

The more distinctive your trademark, the easier it is to protect and the harder it is for competitors to imitate. For startups, investing in creating a distinctive trademark should be seen as investing in your brand’s future security and marketability.

Avoiding Functionality to Maintain Trademark Rights

When it comes to trade dress or certain types of non-traditional trademarks, it’s essential that they are not functional. This means the design or feature must not be essential to the use or purpose of the product, nor should it affect the cost or quality of the product.

The functionality rule is designed to prevent companies from monopolizing useful product features under trademark law, which could stifle competition and innovation. For startups, this emphasizes the importance of innovation in areas that can be legally protected and leveraged to create a competitive edge.

The Strategic Benefits of Registered Trademarks

Registering a trademark amplifies its protection and provides several strategic advantages. A registered trademark is a public declaration of your ownership and exclusive right to use the mark within specific sectors nationwide. It deters potential infringers by making your legal rights clear and accessible in public databases.

Furthermore, should you need to enforce your rights, registered trademarks give you a stronger standing in court. For startups looking to expand or attract investors, a registered trademark can significantly increase your business’s valuation by securing your brand assets legally.

Leveraging Unregistered Marks Strategically

While unregistered trademarks do not offer the same level of protection as registered ones, they are not without their strategic uses. Using the TM symbol with your brand name or logo can act as a deterrent against potential infringement and serves as an interim measure while you prepare for formal registration.

It signals to the market that you are claiming trademark rights to the mark, based on its use in commerce. For startups, this can be a cost-effective strategy to establish brand presence and claim rights in a trademark before committing to the registration expenses.

Five bases of trademark registration.

For Domestic registration the product must

  • Be used in commerce
  • Have intent to use

In international there are 3 bases

  • Foreign registration
  • Foreign application
  • International registration

Use in commerce

The products being trademarked must be available for commercial use. That is to mean they are readily available to the consumers for purchasing and use. This is so because trademarks are majorly what the consumer thinks and therefore if the product are not for consumer use it would be difficult to protect them as trademarks.


These are clear distinguishing marks which are used to differentiate one brand from all the rest. For a brand to be protected as a trademark it is very important for it to be distinctive standing out from all the rest.

Exploring the Foundations of Trademark Registration

Navigating the pathway to trademark registration is not just a legal formality; it’s a strategic step that reinforces your business identity and safeguards your market position.

Understanding the bases of trademark registration can significantly enhance your ability to utilize this tool effectively. Let’s expand on these foundations to give you a clearer roadmap for securing your trademark rights.

Solidifying Your Claim with Use in Commerce

For your trademark to be registrable, demonstrating ‘use in commerce’ is essential. This means that your trademark must be displayed on the product itself, its packaging, or in advertising materials that reach your customers. For digital products, this could include the user interface, website, or even in software code where the trademark is integral to user interaction.

It’s not just about having a trademark; it’s about actively using it in the public domain where it can be recognized and associated with your goods or services. For startups, proving use in commerce is a testament to the operational status of your business and helps cement your claim to a trademark.

Intent to Use – Planning Ahead

For many startups, the future use of a trademark is just as crucial as current use. Filing a trademark application based on ‘intent to use’ allows you to secure your trademark before your product or service is market-ready.

This proactive approach is crucial in industries where development cycles might be lengthy but where securing brand identity early on can prevent costly rebrands or disputes. It’s about laying the groundwork and signaling to potential competitors that you are staking your claim.

Broadening Horizons with International Registration

In today’s global market, protecting your trademark internationally can be as crucial as domestic protection. Understanding the bases for international registration, such as through the Madrid Protocol, can provide cost-effective and streamlined means to protect your trademark in multiple countries.

This is especially valuable for startups planning to expand their markets or who operate in digital spaces where geographic boundaries are less defined.

Enhancing Strategy with Foreign Registration

Sometimes, your business strategy might involve targeting specific overseas markets before you make a full domestic launch. In such cases, securing a trademark based on a foreign registration can be a strategic move.

This allows you to leverage the trademark protection you’ve obtained in another country to support your U.S. registration, providing a backdoor route to U.S. trademark rights that can be particularly effective for startups based internationally looking to enter the U.S. market.

Securing a Stronger Legal Stance

Finally, the comprehensive understanding and utilization of these trademark registration bases not only fortify your legal protections but also enhance your strategic business positioning.

Each base you qualify for can serve as a stepping stone in building a robust legal framework that supports your business’s growth and expansion strategies.

Spectrum of distinctiveness

1. Arbitrary and Fanciful brand

These are brands which are made up of new words that do not necessarily exist in the English dictionary. A great example is Adidas. Another definition is the Apple. Its an existing English word but its meaning is not in any way associated with electronic commodities. These brands are unique are therefore they are protected automatically.

These are brands which are made up of new words that do not necessarily exist in the English dictionary. A great example is Adidas. Another definition is the Apple. Its an existing English word but its meaning is not in any way associated with electronic commodities. These brands are unique are therefore they are protected automatically.

2. Suggestive brands

These are brand names that require imagination to understand their purpose. A great example is Netflix which is a combination of net and flix. Net is derived from the internet and flix is a shortened version of the word flicks which means movie. Another example is the Burger King. Similar to the arbitrary brands, these brands are protected automatically.

3. Descriptive brands

These are brands that convey forthwith. They must acquire secondary meaning or be in use for five years for them to be protected as trademarks. Their brand names are descriptive telling people what they do. Such an example is the spray wash which describes its purpose which is to spray wash.

These are brands that convey forthwith. They must acquire secondary meaning or be in use for five years for them to be protected as trademarks. Their brand names are descriptive telling people what they do. Such an example is the spray wash which describes its purpose which is to spray wash.

4. Generic brands

These are brands which do not have any other choice in language to describe the products. Such products are not protected as trademarks. Examples include cornflakes and aspirin

Secondary meaning

Descriptive marks should illustrate secondary meaning.

Secondary meaning means that the brand have proven their functionality to consumers. Secondary meaning is shown by

  1. Length/manner of use. Indicating the length the brand or the product has been in use.
  2. Amount/manner of advertising
  3. Volume of sales
  4. Direct consumer testimony
  5. Consumer surveys. These prove that the consumers identify the brand’s existence and can easily distinguish these brands from other brands.

Unpacking the Value of Secondary Meaning in Trademarks

When we dive into the concept of secondary meaning in the world of trademarks, we’re not just talking about legal jargon. For startups, understanding and leveraging secondary meaning is a pivotal strategy that can transform a common phrase or design into a competitive shield and a source of economic advantage.

Cultivating a Distinct Identity with Secondary Meaning

Secondary meaning occurs when your customers start to associate a trademark, which may initially be descriptive or generic, exclusively with your products or services. This transformation from a simple descriptor to a brand identifier does not happen overnight. It requires deliberate effort in marketing, customer engagement, and consistent quality that embeds your brand in the consumer’s mind. For a startup, focusing on cultivating these associations is like planting seeds for future brand loyalty and market dominance.

Strategies for Building Secondary Meaning

Building secondary meaning is an art that requires patience, consistency, and creativity. Start with storytelling. How does your brand connect on a personal level with your audience? Use narratives that resonate with your customers’ experiences, aspirations, and needs. This connection is the first step in making your mark memorable.

Engage visually and verbally across all your platforms consistently. Your social media posts, your packaging, your advertisements—every touchpoint should reinforce the same message and visual style. Over time, these consistent cues build recognition and start to embed your trademark in the consumer consciousness as a symbol of distinctiveness.

Leveraging Community Feedback

Customer feedback is gold. Showcasing testimonials and engaging with customers publicly fortifies the association of your trademark with positive experiences and satisfaction. Let your community speak for you; their words carry weight and help solidify the standing of your trademark in the marketplace.

Monitoring and Adapting

The journey to establishing secondary meaning is not static. It requires you to monitor how your brand is perceived and adapt your strategies to maintain relevance and strengthen associations. Use tools like social media insights, market surveys, and direct customer feedback to gauge how well your trademark is resonating with your audience. Understanding shifts in consumer perception can help you tweak your approach, ensuring your trademark continues to stand out and holds its secondary meaning.


A product is functional if:

  • It is essential to use and the purpose of the product.
  • It affects cost of production and quality
  • Puts competitors at a significant non-reputational disadvantage.

Navigating the Functionality Doctrine in Trademark Law

In the world of trademark law, the functionality doctrine plays a critical role, especially for startups aiming to build a distinctive brand. Understanding this principle is not just about adhering to legal standards—it’s about strategically shaping your product features and design choices to ensure they serve your brand without crossing into the realm of functionality, which could otherwise restrict your trademark protection.

Understanding the Core of Functionality

The functionality doctrine is based on a simple yet profound premise: certain aspects of a product that are essential for its use or add a cost advantage should not be monopolized under trademark law because doing so could stifle competition and innovation.

This means if a feature of your product is functional—meaning it is essential to the product’s use or affects the cost and quality of the product—it likely cannot be protected as a trademark.

Strategic Design and Product Development

For startups, the key to navigating this legal landscape is innovative design. When developing a new product, ask yourself: Does this feature need to be this way for the product to function?

If the answer is yes, it’s considered functional and not eligible for trademark protection. However, if the design or feature serves more to identify and distinguish the brand rather than serve a functional purpose, it may be eligible for trademark protection.

Harnessing Non-Functional Design for Competitive Advantage

The magic happens when you can design elements of your product that are memorable and unique but do not contribute to the product’s functionality. Consider the aesthetic layout of your product, the choice of colors, and even the shape—if these elements can be shown to serve primarily a brand-identifying role, they can be protected, adding a layer of competitive advantage to your business.

Legal Insights and Product Design Synergy

Incorporate legal insights into your design phase. Working closely with a patent attorney can provide an early understanding of how to shape your product’s features to align with trademark requirements.

This synergy between legal foresight and design innovation is crucial. It helps in sculpting a product that not only meets market needs but also builds a brand identity protected against competitors.

Case Studies and Real-World Examples

Engage with case studies of products where non-functional design elements have been successfully trademarked. Analyzing these can provide a blueprint for understanding where the line between functionality and brand identity is drawn. It’s also insightful to look at cases where companies have failed to secure trademarks due to functionality to learn what pitfalls to avoid.

wrapping it up

In conclusion, the strategic placement of brands on the outward parts of products is more than just a marketing tactic—it’s an essential component of a startup’s branding strategy. By ensuring that your brand is visible, you not only enhance recognition and differentiate your product in a saturated market but also capitalize on the psychological connections that drive consumer behavior. This outward branding is a potent tool that, if used wisely, can significantly amplify your brand’s presence, foster customer loyalty, and open up new avenues for growth and collaboration. For startups aiming to carve out a niche in today’s competitive business environment, mastering the art of branding is not just beneficial—it’s imperative.