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Five Important Tips to Protect Your Designer Toy Brand!

When you have worked hard on creating your own Designer Toy and/or Designer Toy brand, you don’t want any one swooping in and stealing your work, and ultimately profiting from your hard work & efforts. We are seeing it become more & more prevalent, not to say that it hasn’t been going on since the dawn of time, but it has been effecting some modern day Designer Toy classics in recent times (we have included instances below where work has been copied). We have been working with a Trademark expert, Gerben Law Firm, to come up with five important tips to protect your Designer Toy brand! Check it out below…

Obtaining a registered trademark is essential to protecting your Designer Toy brand.  First, understand the value and importance of owning a federal trademark.  Next, complete a comprehensive trademark search to determine if similar marks exist.  Consider international registration, as well.  Always work with an experienced attorney, and start the process as soon as possible, to ensure your brand is protected.  

         Whether you have developed your first toy, or you’ve already created several collections in your Designer Toy brand, the time to think about protecting your brand is now.  You have likely invested much of your time, energy, and money into building and growing your brand.  To protect those investments, you may want to start by trademarking those things that represent your brand.  Consider these 5 important tips to protect your Designer Toy brand.  

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Trademark

         In the Designer Toy industry, uniqueness and branding are key to building a lasting, successful business.  As a toy industry expert, you understand the importance of brand loyalty.  The representations of your brand, whether a business name, logo, slogan, or even a colour scheme, can all become registered trademarks, serving as a way to keep your brand exclusive in the marketplace.  In addition, your trademark is a valuable asset.  As your toy brand grows and thrives, the value of your trademark will grow along with it.

         In the United States, you are granted some rights and legal protections simply by using your trademark.  These rights, however, are extremely limited.  For instance, you would only have legal protection in the small geographic region to conduct business.  This could severely limit the growth and expansion of your business, if someone in another region is using a confusingly similar trademark.  To have the full value a trademark can offer, you must register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO.  

Perform a Proper Trademark Search on a New Toy Name

         Once you’ve decided on a trademark, the next step is to conduct a comprehensive trademark search.  This should be done before you submit your application with the USPTO.  The purpose of the search is to determine if a similar mark has already been registered.  While it can be frustrating to learn that your trademark is already in use, it is best to learn this before you submit the application and pay the filing fee.  This way, you will be able to make some changes to your toy brand’s trademark and file once you are confident your trademark is not confusingly similar to an existing mark.  

         While you may see free trademark searches advertised online, the do-it-yourself approach is not recommended for trademark searches.  These online legal sites and basic search engines like Google, tend to only alert you to exact matches to your trademark.  Most trademark disputes, however, do not arise from exact trademark matches, but rather similar matches that may cause a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace.  The searches conducted by trademark attorneys are much more thorough, and will reveal not only exact word matches, but also similar matches to your toy brand’s trademark.  To be sure that you are aware of all possible matches, it is best to work with an experienced trademark attorney. 

Consider Registering Your Designer Toy Brand Internationally

         As a registered trademark owner in the U.S., you will have valuable protections critical to your brand.  It’s important to note, however, that those protections will only cover trademark disputes within the United States.  In order to protect your designer toy brand outside the U.S., you need to consider international registration.  To determine where to register, take a look at where you are currently doing business, and where you plan to do business in the future.  Consider all aspects of your designer toy business, including where your customers are located, where your toys are manufactured, and where your distribution centers are.  These are the countries where you should begin trademark registration.

         While there is no single application to grant you trademark protections around the world, the process may be easier than you think.  The Madrid Protocol is an international treaty allowing trademark registrants to complete one application that can then be applied to more than 90 member countries.  It is important to note, however, that while the Madrid Protocol streamlines and simplifies the application process, it does not guarantee your trademark will be approved in each country you apply.  Those decisions are made on a country-by-country basis.  

Work with an Experienced Attorney to Gain Protection

         The process to register a trademark involves many detailed legal decisions best made by an experienced trademark attorney.  Not only is a comprehensive trademark search needed, but you must also specify the international classes for which you plan to register your toy trademark.  Choosing the incorrect classes of goods and services could significantly delay the registration process.  In addition, you will likely be issued Office Actions from the USPTO throughout the process.  These are notices of a potential issue or requests for additional information or clarification.  In most cases, your trademark attorney will be able to quickly respond to these office actions on your behalf.  

         In addition to securing your trademark protections through registration, a trademark attorney can also help you keep those protections.  While the USPTO grants trademarks, they do not enforce their exclusive use.  That is the responsibility of the trademark owner, and monitoring your trademark’s use can be a time consuming task. Fortunately, most trademark attorneys offer monitoring services as well, once a trademark has been registered.  If possible infringement is identified, your attorney will also determine what legal action is best to take to protect your Designer Toy brand.  

Keep in Mind the Toy’s Shelf Life

         Infringement can be detrimental to a business, especially in the Designer Toy industry.  It is vital that you register your trademark as soon as possible.  The date on which you file your application will then become your priority date.  This means that anyone filing a similar trademark after this date may not be granted rights to use it.  In addition, if you file an international application within six months of filing with the USPTO, you are able to apply the priority date to the international application as well.  In countries like China and India, where counterfeiting is rampant, being the first to register the trademark is critical.

Protect Your Designer Toy Brand with a Registered Trademark     

         You have worked hard to build your Designer Toy brand, and protecting the brand from infringement is essential to your success.  Work with an experienced trademark attorney to determine what marks should be registered to protect your business.  Next, complete a comprehensive search to be sure the trademark is not already in use.  Then, register your trademark, first with the USPTO, then internationally.  These important tips will help to protect your designer toy brand now and in the future.


 Josh Gerben is the founder of Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a U.S. based intellectual property boutique offering trademark, copyright, and patent services. Since 2008, Gerben has secured over 4,500 trademarks for clients and has been featured in a wide range of local and national news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and more.


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