Can a Medical Practice Name Be Trademarked?
When asked “what is a trademark,” the easiest answer is usually to name common brand names that most people are familiar with – Nike, McDonalds, CocaCola. Trademarks are often associated with products that we use on a day to day basis, whether it’s groceries, houseware or apparel. But what about services? The term “trademark” broadly refers to two types of marks – trademarks for goods and servicemarks for services.
Why Medical Service Providers Consider Trademarking
Trademarks are unique identifiers of the source of particular goods and/or services in the marketplace. Essentially, trademarks and servicemarks let prospective customers know where something comes from, or who sponsors the product or service they are purchasing. So it’s not unusual that the services offered by doctors, dentists and medical professionals should be eligible for trademark protection. If we consider the purpose of trademarks, it makes sense that doctors and other medical professionals would want to carve out a unique name for themselves and their services to avoid any potential confusion with another provider who may:
- have the same name, or
- try to use a similar brand name in connection with their services and potentially create confusion in the marketplace.
Another reason why doctors, dentists and other medical professionals may consider the benefits of trademark registration and trademark protection is the potential corollary market that comes in the form of products beyond the services that these professionals may be known for. For example, a dentist may develop his or her own line of toothpaste, mouthwash, teeth whiteners or dental implants. A dermatologist may put his or her name behind a line of over-the-counter skin care products (hello Drs. Rodan and Fields, of Pro-Activ). In addition to the mainstay services that doctors, dentists and medical professionals may provide, a registered trademark for related goods may provide long term professional, and financial, benefits for these service providers.
What is the Service Mark Registration Process?
Registering a service mark is very much the same process as trademarks for goods. You should start the trademark process with a comprehensive trademark search to ensure the name you want to use in connection with your services is not already taken. A thorough search is important for several reasons, not least of which in the case of doctors and medical service providers because of the related products market discussed above. While the name you want may appear available for use in connection with “medical and/or dental services,” you must also consider whether the name is already in use for related medical devices, equipment or dental care products. Since the trademark standard is a likelihood of confusion, it is possible that a registered trademark for medical or dental goods could result in refusal of your trademark application for similar services.
After the search is cleared, your trademark application is prepared and filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Examiners at the USPTO will review your service mark application for any conflicts or other issues. If there are none, the application should proceed to registration (if the mark was filed as “intent to use,” a Statement of Use will be required before registration issues) just as it would for a goods trademark.
In short, trademark protection is not limited to products and well-known service brands (like McDonalds or Facebook). If you are a doctor, dentist, medical professional, or any other kind of service provider (e.g., insurance agent, real estate broker or financial advisor), trademark protection is definitely available to you to safeguard your brand name.
For More Information
For more information on service marks, trademarks or your particular industry, please contact us for a complimentary consultation with one of our trademark attorneys. You may reach us via email, or at (800) 769-7790.