Competition is fierce in the medical industry. That’s why when you build a healthcare brand, registering your Trademark, it is more important than ever before. As a doctor, your name, slogan, or logo is not just for marketing and advertising purposes. It represents your values, the quality of care you provide, and the future success of your medical practice, medical devices, or medical solutions. While you are afforded some trademark protection by using the mark that represents your practice, such common law rights are limited. Registering your mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the best way to shield your mark from misuse, and a trademark attorney can best guide you through the process.
If you’ve started a medical practice or a healthcare-related business, it’s crucial to be aware that there are a number of goods and services that can be protected with a registered trademark. Specifically, doctors and healthcare professionals should be aware that they can claim trademark rights for the following:
A significant challenge in the medical industry is selecting a trademark that is distinctive. Often, doctors select business names that are merely descriptive, such as those that incorporate geographic locations or a surname. Although these types of names can sometimes be registered as trademarks, they are not always granted protection by the USPTO. Whether you’re seeking to trademark the name of your practice, a medical procedure, a device, or anything else associated with your healthcare brand, it is best to choose a mark that is fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive — categories considered distinctive enough to function as trademarks.
A registered trademark can help you grow your medical practice and safeguard its integrity by giving you the protected right to use the name or slogan associated with it. This is critical to prevent patients or clients from being confused with another medical provider who may inadvertently, or purposely, infringe upon your brand.
An integral component to trademarking a name, slogan, or logo for your medical practice is ensuring the mark is not already being used by another healthcare provider by conducting a trademark clearance search. If it is later discovered that the name of your practice is confusingly similar to another, you could be forced to stop using it. After working for years to build your practice, changing the name of your practice is not only a hassle but it can also be damaging to your reputation and economic growth.
Once you’ve cleared the use of your name, slogan, or logo, you can move forward with your USPTO application. However, it is essential to understand that a trademark clearance search can be complex. Not only do you have to watch out for identical trademarks, but also those that sound or look like your proposed registered mark. If the clearance search results reveal similar marks already in use, a trademark attorney can assist with creating a strategy to overcome any obstacles and move forward.
If the mark you would like to protect is not already in use, and the USPTO will likely accept it based on its criteria, you can move forward with your application. But it is essential to understand that filing a trademark application for a medical practice is not always as simple as completing the paperwork. If the application is not filled out correctly, the process could be delayed, or your registration could be denied.
Importantly, if there are any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions in your application, or the examining attorney discovers a conflicting mark, the USPTO may issue an office action, requiring you to correct the deficiency. A trademark attorney can assist you with the nuances of filing a trademark application so that it is properly prepared, and you can avoid any unnecessary delay.
Medical practices and other businesses in the medical industry face unique challenges when it comes to claiming trademark rights for their brands. The harm that can be caused by another’s infringement can be irreparable. A trademark attorney can not only guide you through the trademark clearance, application, and registration process, but they can help you develop a solid strategy to shield your brand and maintain control of it.
Additionally, once you register your mark, you have a continued obligation to monitor it for misuse and potential infringement. It’s necessary to assert your rights and defend your mark if you learn another has been using your mark, or one that is similar. You must also renew the trademark at specific intervals to retain your ownership. A trademark attorney can provide these legal services so you can keep your focus on expanding your medical practice.
There’s nothing more important to a doctor than their reputation and the brand that reflects it. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Trademark Lawyer Law Firm, PLLC provides tailored legal services and strategic advice to doctors and healthcare professionals regarding the protection of their brands. Offering a wide variety of trademark services for medical practices and businesses within the medical industry, we are committed to helping ensure your professional success. Contact us today to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.
Suspensions are when your application is on hold. There are various reasons a trademark application can be suspended. However “likelihood of confusion” with prior application(s) filed and submission of foreign application are the most common reasons the USPTO may suspend an application. During a trademark suspension period, your lawyer will provide guidance on the next steps and whether it might be best to file an argument or pursue a coexistence agreement.
A disclaimer usually refers to a statement which indicates that you are not claiming exclusive rights to use the word(s) or a design element in your trademark application. A disclaimer allows for registration without creating a false impression of the registrant’s rights.
A good example of this is disclaiming “café” if your services are for a café.
If a trademark is not eligible for the Principal Registry, there is sometimes an option to register on the Supplemental Registry.
In cases where the USPTO finds the trademark application is merely ornamental, merely descriptive, or primarily geographically descriptive, the USPTO may allow the application to be registered on the Supplemental Registry. However, over time, the mark may acquire distinctiveness and possibly become eligible for the Principal Registry.
Two dates must be specified in a trademark application:
Date of First Use Anywhere: The “anywhere” refers to use in the U.S. or elsewhere. This is the date the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered under the mark. The use must also have been bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.
Date of First Use in Commerce: This is the date when the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered under the mark in interstate or international commerce. The use of the mark must have been bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.
The renewal timeframe for a trademark is between the 9th and 10th year anniversary of the trademark registration, and then in ten-year intervals. It is important to be aware that the USPTO also requires a registrant to provide an affidavit at the 5th and 6th years of ownership stating that the trademark is still being used in commerce. Failure to comply with the renewal timeframes or the affidavit requirements will result in the cancellation of the trademark registration.