When others use a business’ trademarks as their own, it may be considered infringement, a violation for which they may take legal action to remedy.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports there were 2.4 million small businesses operating in Dallas and throughout the state of Texas as of 2015. Like larger corporations, these companies also often distinguish themselves as the source of their goods or services using words, symbols, designs or phrases. Unfortunately, however, others may sometimes seek to cash in existing businesses' successes, and attempt to use these marks for their own gain. In order to protect what they have built, it is important for business owners to have an understanding of trademark infringement.

What is trademark infringement?

Whether registered or not, when businesses have valid claim to marks, others may not use them as their own. Thus, trademark infringement occurs when another company or person uses a business' service mark or trademark without that business' consent. Further, the use must be in a manner that is likely to deceive or confuse consumers about the source of goods or services, or otherwise cause them to mistake one company's product for another's.

In determining whether trademark infringement has occurred, the court will consider a number of factors. This includes the degree of similarity between the marks, how closely related the companies' products or services are, where and how the businesses market and sell their goods, and the range of the companies' prospective customers. Additionally, the court will take into account the infringing business' intent in using the mark and whether there are any instances of the alleged violating mark creating actual confusion for consumers.

Remedies for trademark infringement

Businesses who believe another person or company is infringing on their trademarks may choose to take legal action at the state or federal court levels. If the courts determine that trademark infringement has occurred, there are several available reparations. The violating business may be ordered to stop using the mark in question, as well as to destroy or forfeit any violating products or goods. Additionally, the infringing company may be ordered to pay damages, including the attorney's fees and other costs associated with the legal action.

Seeking legal guidance

When others in Dallas and across Texas attempt to use businesses' trademarks or service marks as their own, it may not only draw customers away and affect their bottom line. It may also water-down the market or negatively impact the original companies' reputations. Therefore, when they believe infringement is occurring, it may be of benefit for business owners to take swift action. Working with an attorney may help them determine if their marks are being inappropriately used, as well as how best to proceed given their unique circumstances.