Protecting Your Practice’s Brand: Trademark Basics

By: Shobha Lizaso

Building a brand image is extremely important in today’s technology-driven economy.  Because of social media, online advertising, and the availability of online reviews, local healthcare providers need to engage at a higher degree than ever before to attract new patients, retain current patients, and establish themselves as experts in their respective fields.

Patients choose providers based on specializations, reputation, and quality of care, so the first step in branding is selecting and registering the trademarks for your practice.  Trademarks are the names, slogans, tag lines, and/or logos that identify and represent your practice, its services, and mission to the public, and are the foundation for the facility’s overall branding and marketing strategy. In addition to the trademarks associated with your main practice, you may also use trademarks to protect your stake in a specific area or a specific area of expertise. For example, the trademark and logos used for a hospital’s senior services might be different than one used for its cardiac care services.  If you do not protect your trademark, a competitor could use it or something similar, which could confuse your patients and potentially draw business away from your practice..

Do you really need to register your trademarks?  Consider the following:

  1. Registration gives notice to the public that you are the owner of the trademark and that you have exclusive rights to use that trademark indefinitely (renew every 10 years).
  2. Registration prevents others in your industry fm using similar logos or names that confuse your current or potential patients.
  3. Registration allows you to file suit against those who infringe upon your trademark (you cannot sue without a valid trademark registration).
  4. Registration helps you license your trademark, which you can use to make money and increase your brand’s popularity.

Steps to Trademarking

  1. Using an experienced attorney to conduct a common law, state, federal, and domain search for your desired trademarks and  analyzing the results of the search to determine whether you have a truly unique trademark.
  2. Once the search is complete and you and the attorney are happy with the results from the search, the attorney will then identify the classes of services that the trademarks will be registered under and the attorney will lead you through the process of applying for the trademark.
  3. Until the trademark receives its registration, you can use “TM” after the logo, slogan, or name to show that you believe that you own the rights to this mark.
  4. Once your trademark is registered, you can change that “TM” to an “R” in a circle, giving the world notice that you own that trademark and that you have the right to sue anyone who infringes upon your trademark rights.

Whether a provider is opening a new practice or expanding its current practice to new locations, a provider’s “brand” or “brand strategy” should be viewed as an investment in the practice’s public image and reputation and be protected accordingly.


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