Trademarks for Small and Mid-sized Businesses

Importance of trademarks

Why do trademarks matter to small and mid-sized businesses? 

The best companies are those whose brands are easy to remember and instantly recognizable,” said Dana Brody-Brown, Counsel at Hoge-Fenton during a recent interactive workshop at the Executive Forums Silicon Valley (EFSV) Advisory Board. Trademarks can serve to differentiate your products from others and efficiently deliver your marketing messages, in addition to providing competitive advantage, investment protection, product or process validation and business valuation.

Trademarks can also be important for operations, revenues and the ability to sell and ship into primary markets. For consumer facing goods, trademarks are especially important, according to Ms. Brody-Brown.

Business owners and key executives at SVEF learned about intellectual property’s value, importance, nuances and best practices during this workshop. Those who were not aware of the importance of intellectual property in their markets found the discussions extremely beneficial. This article will focus on trademarks.

Types of trademarks

There are many types of trademarks associated with traditional concepts such as words, symbols, slogans, pictures, emblems and packaging design as shown in this graphic below:

Additionally, trademarks can be associated with less traditional and more creative concepts such as sound, color, shape, business design or motion, as shown in the following graphic:

Distinctiveness and frequent use are two key factors

In selecting your marks, think distinctiveness. I often wonder about the effectiveness of the LIMU Ostrich for Liberty Mutual Insurance, the Smile on Amazon packaging, or the Peace Symbol of Mercedes. However, it is the distinctiveness of the mark along with the frequency of use that allows the product, service or company to be etched into the mind of the customer. The spectrum of distinctiveness and how it can be used is demonstrated in the following graphic:

In addition to the specific education around the topic of intellectual property and trademarks, several case studies were used to demonstrate the power and value of proper (and improper) application of these techniques. 

Best Practices for using trademarks

The discussion closed with some best practices for using your marks in building strong brands including 

  • Select Strong and Creative Marks
  • Search Well Before Use
  • Register – in the US (and Internationally)
  • Enforce Your Rights
  • Consistently Use in Messaging, Marketing, and Advertising

Other best practices include following your mark with the generic product category such as Kleenex® tissue or Ford® truck, maintaining use of the registered spelling or font such as MONTBLANC® fountain pen or Hershey Kisses® chocolate and always using the appropriate symbol ® or ™. There is also an ACID test for using a trademark which requires you establish

  • A – Adjective
  • C – Consistency
  • I – Identification
  • D – Distinguished from Other Text

The business owners and top executives of Executive Forums Silicon Valley learned a lot during the workshop and have practical techniques they can use in their business. I would highly recommend that you contact Dana Brody-Brown ( , 408 947-2433, to learn more about her background and expertise on this topic and to help you use intellectual property concepts for your company and business advantage.

  1. Forbes- Feb. 21, 2012- “How Important is Small Business Branding Really?”, Jessica Bosari Contributor


At Executive Forums Silicon Valley, selected business owners and leaders work together to gain clarity, insight and accountability to ignite their leadership engines, grow their businesses and improve their lives. If you are interested in learning more about Business Owner Advisory Boards, Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), Stages of Growth, Value Builder System or becoming a member at Executive Forum Silicon Valley, please contact or call 408-901-0321. For more information please visit .


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>