"Investing" in trademark protection refers first and foremost to researching prior trademarks to make sure you're not infringing another party's trademark (Search & Clearance). There are many levels at which to engage this clearance work, and the more you invest, the more likely you are to have a trademark that will withstand the test of time. Secondly, investment will mean registration, unless there's a good reason not to register.
There is an art to knowing how much to invest your trademarks. There are no hard-fast rules, but generally, the lists below point out situations that generally merit making a deeper investment in trademarks, versus not. To be clear, in almost every case, investment in trademark protection will reap benefits –often crucial ones.
Situations Supporting Trademark Investment
- You intend to sell the company some day (although you could delay trademark investment until after you concept was proven in many instances).
- You want to license products (goods or services) using the trademark
- You want to expand internationally
- You are not known directly by customers/clients
- It would be costly to recall goods and re-label them, if your trademark were found infringing
Situations not Supporting Trademark Investment
- You’re a bootstrapping startup with inadequate capital. Generally speaking, incorporating, contracts, insurance, and regulatory compliance are higher priorities, though there are always exceptions to the rule.
- Customers/clients all know you personally, and your service business. Thus, you could simply tell customers/clients where to find you if had to change your name.
In sum, the determination whether or not to invest in trademark, and how much, really is a case-by-case cost/benefit analysis that varies based on your financial situation and your intentions for how your business will use that mark in the future. We recommend speaking with an attorney about your particular situation before jumping into registration or ignoring that possibility for your business.