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Trade Secrets

Make It Memorable

In my 20 years of bringing products to market, I've found consumers don't really remember or care if a product has a patent. They do, however, tend to remember trademarked names. Registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office costs only $245-far less than getting a patent (although the cost can rise to $1,000 or so if you use an attorney).

To get the most from a trademark, keep these rules in mind:

1. A trademark distinguishes the source of one product from the sources of other products. This means you can't receive trademark protection until you are actually selling the product.

2. A trademark can't be a descriptive term; for example, Bergmoser couldn't trademark "Fruit-Ripening Mesh Pockets" or even "Mesh Pockets." This restriction makes it difficult to trademark a properly spelled term, unless it's a term not commonly associated with the product, such as Ocean Spray (a trademark of Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc.). You can get around this by spelling the name incorrectly, such as Ripe-N-Pockets; using a made-up word, such as Kleenex; using a symbol, such as a wheel for the "o" in Mr. Coffee; or using a particular typeface, such as the font in the Business Start-Ups logo.

Still need to know more? Try the following resources:

Even if you have a patent, trademarks can provide additional protection and name recognition. Use them liberally as part of a smart strategy to set your product apart in the market.

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This article was originally published in the November 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Trade Secrets.

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