As a salon owner, making clients’ nails look great may account for the majority of your time each day, but it’s not the only job on your plate. It’s equally important to focus on maintaining and building your salon’s brand and image. But if you haven’t secured a federal trademark registration for your salon’s name, all of your hard work could be in jeopardy.
Securing a trademark is an investment in your business’s future. Not only does having a trademark provide you with some meaningful form of legal recourse if another nail salon or similar business decides to open with the same or even a similar name, but if you were ever to want to expand your salon to multiple locations or sell your salon, you wouldn’t have to worry about the potential of needing to change your business name.
So What Is a Trademark, Anyway?
Simply put, a trademark is a name, word, or symbol that represents your product or service offering. When the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) approves your trademark application, they are essentially saying that you have the presumption of exclusive rights to the registered mark (e.g., the name, logo, etc.) within your industry anywhere in the U.S.
For example, imagine that you own a salon called “Blue Wave Nail Spa” and have built a great reputation with repeat clients, lots of word-of-mouth referrals, and fabulous online reviews. One day, a new client comes for a manicure and happens to ask if your salon is related to the new “Blue Wave Nails” that recently opened in a neighboring county. Uh oh.
With a name so similar to yours, it’s easy to see how current and potential customers could get confused and could inadvertently do business with your competition when they intended to patronize your salon. Now imagine what would happen if the local news reported that Blue Wave Nails was being investigated for unsanitary practices, or an online video made the social media rounds showing a Blue Wave Nails employee stealing from a customer’s purse. It’s easy to see how your salon could get caught in the middle.
The way you handle this situation will depend on if you own the federally registered trademark to the “Blue Wave Nail Spa” name. If you do, not only is it your legal right, but also your obligation to stop other nail salons from infringing on your name or any name that is confusingly similar. In this situation, you would work with your attorney to connect with Blue Wave Nails and demand that they stop infringing on your name.
If you don’t hold the trademark on the Blue Wave Nail Spa, things could be more difficult. You can request that the owners of Blue Wave Nails change their salon name, but if they are located far enough away from your salon, your legal rights for this request could be tenuous without the power of a federal trademark registration on your side. The lesson here is that registering for a federal trademark gives you much stronger legal case for enforcement of any trademark.
Protect Your Name First
For most small businesses, their name is their most important brand element, and your nail salon is likely no exception. It’s the name your clients share when giving referrals or when searching for you online. That’s why we suggest that when it is time to file for trademarks, if money is an issue, you should always file for trademark protection on your salon name first, leaving other brand elements like logos for another time.
Here’s why: When you get a trademark registration on your name, you gain the broadest level of protection. If you obtain protection on other brand elements — like your logo — you are protected in a much narrower scope. To illustrate, if you submit your Blue Wave Nail Spa logo for trademark protection today and then you subsequently tweak your logo, your federal registration would no longer be effective and you would have to re-file to obtain federal registration rights on your new logo/name combination.
By ensuring that you trademark your salon name before it becomes an issue, you’ll be protecting the brand and reputation you’ve worked so hard to build.
Founder of Gerben Law Firm PLLC, Josh Gerben is a trademark lawyer whose trademark registration process has facilitated securing over 4,000 federally registered trademarks for clients since 2008.
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