If a company has a trademark, which is its identifying name or symbol, no one else is allowed to use it without authorization. This means that you cannot open up a restaurant and name is “McDonald’s,” nor can you use the company’s famous “golden arches” as your own symbol. The same goes for Nike’s “swoosh” or Aflac’s duck.
The same protection is given to you if you have a trademark. No one can decide to take your registered trademark (either the name or the symbol you’ve chosen) if you have an established brand.
In some cases, however, one party can use the trademark of another party with a trademark licensing agreement. What this means is that the party who owns the trademark can allow someone else to use it in exchange for royalties, fees paid upfront or other benefits. It can be done only by specific agreement, and it requires a detailed contract spelling out all of the terms of the agreed-upon usage. In most cases, it’s best that this agreement be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Whether you are the one holding the trademark or the one wanting to use someone else’s trademark, there are several issues that you need to check into. One is that the person owning the trademark actually owns all rights to it. Another is that the contract differentiates between a simple trademark licensing agreement and a franchising situation. Both of these are valid ways of growing a business and promoting a product, but you need to understand the difference when it comes to assigning or accepting the rights to use a trademark.
At Triangle Trademarks, we have the expertise necessary to walk you through the process of coming to a trademark licensing agreement. We can represent your best interests no matter which side of the equation you are on, and we can make sure that you fully understand your contract.
Please contact us for more information on trademark licensing agreements and how they can benefit you.