Burger King. Papa John’s Pizza. What do these two well-known brands have in common? Neither of these two restaurants were the first to use their company names but both of them own the rights to use these names on a national scale. Why? Because they obtained federal trademark protection over their names. In 1957, the first Burger King was opened in Mattoon, Illinois. The owners acquired state (not federal) level trademark rights over the name “Burger King.” This only provided them with trademark rights in the state of Illinois. Since the Burger King chain acquired federal trademark protection, they are able to use the name anywhere in the US. The original Burger King’s trademark rights only prevent the chain from using the name within a 20-mile radius of their location. This means that if the original Burger King wanted to expand, they would have to change the name of their business. The Papa John’s situation is very similar to that of Burger King. There was a Papa John’s Pizza chain in East Lansing, Michigan before the national Papa John’s chain began doing business. Since the national Papa John’s chain possessed federal trademark protection, they were unable to use the Papa John’s name in East Lansing, but they could use it everywhere else. Unfortunately for the original chain, this meant that they would not be able to expand their business across state lines. What is the moral of these stories? If you want to grow your business beyond your state’s borders, you must protect your brand. Obtaining federal trademark protection through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an essential step in making sure you are able to protect your brand.  

What is a trademark?

A trademark is anything that is used to distinguish your products or services from that of another business. This can include a logo, business or product name, slogan, or tagline. These “marks” prevent confusion among consumers of your products. It also differentiates your products from a competitor’s products. Obtaining federal trademark rights involves filing an application with the USPTO. This should be done with the assistance of an attorney or a company that is familiar with the trademark process.  

Why should I obtain federal trademark rights?

A federal trademark filing enables you to prevent others from using your brand to sell their products. If someone infringes on your mark, having federal protection gives you much higher standing in court. Also, if you plan on doing business globally, a trademark registration in the United States puts you in a much better position to obtain international trademark rights. As you can see, possessing federal trademark rights over anything that represents your brand is crucial to the continued growth of your business. The growth potential of both of the “originals” in this story was eliminated due to their failure to obtain the appropriate protection. As a matter of fact, the original Papa John’s closed down in 2008.  Don’t let this happen to you. Protect your brand.  Protect your growth.