We have discussed the need to use your trademarks as adjectives (and not nouns or verbs) to avoid having them become descriptive or even generic terms. Today, we will talk about how you should be using your trademarks in a prominent and consistent manner.

Trademarks help consumers identify and distinguish your goods or services from those of your competitor. You should be using your marks in a way that builds “brand awareness” so that consumers will see your mark and immediately think of your company.  If the appearance of your trademark is different every time a consumer sees it, it will take longer to build up a good, strong association between the mark and your goods and services. And, with less distinctive marks, inconsistent use can undermine your rights completely.

Consistent use of a mark will help strengthen your rights in that mark as well as in any registrations that you may have. Consistency in use is particularly important with descriptive or highly suggestive marks and will assist in developing secondary meaning.

After a mark has been chosen, decisions then need to be made regarding how the mark will be used so that it will stand out from the remaining text on the page and from other marks in the marketplace. These decisions should be standardized and set out in a Style or Usage Guide (to be discussed in more detail next week).  The types of decisions that need to be made include:

  • Will the mark can be bolded or used in ALL CAPS or with First Initial Caps or a COMBINATION so the The Mark stands out from the remainder of the ad.
  • Special FONTS can also be used as well as COLOR. 
  • Will the mark be used as one word (CalmCap) or two words (Calm Cap)?
  • Will traditional spelling be used or something different (KalmKap)?

You should not use KalmKap one time and then KalmKap another. Having said that, it is acceptable to use a color mark in black and white where the specific color is not available – KalmKap.

Similarly, if your chosen font is not available (for example, in a news piece about the product or service) the mark should be used in the standard font of the ad.  However, in that case, the mark should be placed in “quotation mark” or the TM or ® symbol used to identify the mark as a mark “KalmKap” or KalmKap ® or TM.

The same is true for logos – color and style matters.  McDonald’s restaurants use the famous “Golden Arches” logo.  It would be confusing and detrimental to overall brand strength if random McDonald’s restaurant ads or stores used blue arches.

Our Insight.  Your Advantage.  Consistent use of a company’s trademarks requires that a set of proper branding guidelines be developed and followed.  The best way to be sure this is done is to create a Trademark Usage Manual or a Style Guide that can be referred to anytime an ad is being developed or placed to be sure that your mark appears as it should.  Next week we will look more closely at development of such a guide.

Here are the other installments in this series: