As the number of spas continues to grow, spa owners and managers are actively searching for any potential competitive advantage. From word-of-mouth referrals to social and traditional media advertising, there are numerous ways to help create your spa’s brand, positioning it where potential clients can see it and driving appointments and positive reviews in the process.
But how can you be sure that you’re keeping your brand safe from risk while simultaneously promoting? One of the best ways is by applying for—and receiving—federal trademark registration. Here’s a closer look at why spas need trademark protection and what you need to do if someone “steals” your spa business’ name.
Does Your Spa Really Need a Trademark?
As you may imagine, large, nationwide spas like The Red Door (multiple locations) own the trademarks for its names. But do small- and mid-sized spas need to trademark their names too? Yes, trademark protection is a smart investment even for spas with a small staff or a single location.
Here’s why: Imagine you own GILLI SPA and have worked hard over the past four years to generate repeat clients, garnering dozens of five-star reviews on Yelp. Everything is going great until one of your regulars posts “Congratulations on your new location!” to your spa’s Facebook page. But there’s just one problem: you haven’t opened any new locations. After a little research, you realize why she’s confused—right over the bridge in a neighboring county is a new spa called GILLY SPA.
While the other spa doesn’t have the exact same name, it is similar enough that current and potential clients could unintentionally do business with them when they intended to do business with you. And imagine what would happen if the local news reported that an employee from GILLY SPA allegedly stole items from a client’s purse while she was receiving spa services? It’s easy to see how your business could get caught up in the drama.
Trademark Registrations Provide Spas with Legal Recourse and Effective Deterrents
What should you do if another spa “steals” your name? That depends in one question: Do you own the federal trademark registration on your business name—in the case of this example, GILLI SPA?
- YES, you do hold the federal trademark: Good news! It’s both your right and legal obligation to ensure that other businesses in and related to the spa industry don’t infringe on your name, meaning that they don’t use your exact name or any other name that would be “confusingly similar” to potential clients.
In a situation like this, your attorney would likely contact GILLY SPA in writing, demanding a name change. Should GILLY SPA ignore your request or chose to fight it, your attorney may advise you to file a federal trademark infringement lawsuit or to take some other action.
- NO, you do NOT hold the federal trademark to your spa name: Your road ahead will be more challenging. Your attorney may request GILLY SPA change its name, but without the deterrent power of a federal trademark behind you, GILLY SPA may be willing to take their chances. And if GILLY SPA chooses not to change their name and you take them to court under common law trademark, know that it is time-consuming and expensive to prove.
If there is one lesson learned here, it is this: filing for and receiving a federal trademark registration provides an effective deterrent in the marketplace, and will likely result in less protracted enforcement activities if someone attempts to steal and use your business' name.
About the Author: Founder of Gerben Law Firm PLLC, a USA based trademark law firm, Josh Gerben is a trademark lawyer whose trademark filing process has facilitated securing over 4,000 trademarks for clients since 2008. Gerben Law Firm’s attorneys have been quoted in a wide variety of national news outlets; The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNBC and more.