The top 3 things landscapers should know about trademarks

Updated Feb 19, 2019

shutterstock_293081240As the United States continues to rebound from economic recession and the residential and commercial building industries are improving, so too has the landscape care industry.

Josh GerbenJosh Gerben

In fact, research firm IBISWorld predicts that “over the next five years, steady per capita disposable income growth is projected to encourage households to continue outsourcing yard care.” Clearly, for those who are veterans in the lawn care business as well as those just starting out, there is ample opportunity.

There are also ample tasks on the average landscape business owner’s to-do list, from generating and following up on leads to making sales, signing contracts, and performing the work.

But in the midst of all of those things, there’s another area you simply cannot afford to ignore: the process of gaining trademark protection for your name. Without a federally registered trademark, all of your hard work and your reputation—not to mention any money you’ve spent on marketing or advertising—can be in jeopardy.

Let’s take a closer look at the top 3 things landscape business owners need to know about the trademark process.

#1. A registered trademark helps prevent you from accidental infringement

Just as important in protecting your own brand is ensuring that you aren’t infringing on another business’ existing brand. Even if you didn’t intend to infringe on anyone else’s brand and it was an honest mistake, you may still be faced with serious repercussions—from simply having to stop using the name and reprinting all of your truck signage and business cards, to being forced to pay monetary damages to the company that owns the trademark to the name.

The safest move is to enlist the help of a trademark attorney when deciding on your company name. The attorney can research your desired trademark to confirm you won’t be infringing on an existing business, and can also work with you to determine a distinctive, unique name that will make it easier for you to apply for and enforce your trademarked name in the future.

#2. A registered trademark gives you legal leverage

As we’ve already discussed, working with an attorney to research and register your trademark can help you avoid infringing on someone else’s mark. But if another business comes along and tries to accuse you of infringing, the fact that you can point to your federally registered trademark gives you distinct legal leverage—perhaps allowing you to defend the claim entirely.

Additionally, a registered trademark gives you a legal advantage in the situation that another company infringes on your trademark. Imagine for a moment that your business is named “Lawns Etc.” and you own the federal trademark for the name.

That means that if another business starts using the same name or even a similar name—like “Lawns Etcetera”—you have the legal standing to request that they cease and desist using the name, and if you have to take them to court, you’ll definitely have the legal edge.

#3. You must monitor and police your registered trademark

After you’ve successfully applied for and received a federal trademark for your name, it’s up to you to ensure that no one else is using it—in fact, it’s part of the responsibility of maintaining your trademark. To keep your name protected, you must remain active and aware of any potential infringement on it.

If you allow another business to use the same or similar name without calling them on it, you may eventually lose your rights to the name. Similar to other activities we’ve discussed, trademark monitoring and policing is a task that businesses often delegate to their attorney.

Trademarks help you build and protect a solid brand

As your landscape care company becomes more successful, the name and reputation that you’re building become more attractive to other businesses that may be interested in benefitting from your hard work.

Consider working with a trademark attorney to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently infringing on another business’ trademark, as well as to help you through the process of obtaining a trademark for your company name. And don’t forget about the need to monitor your trademark against infringement after you receive approval. By following these trademark tips you will be on your way toward building and protecting a solid brand.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was contributed by Josh Gerben, a U.S. trademark attorney and principal of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about the importance of trademarks on the law firm’s blog.

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