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Condo | HOA Lawyers

Enhance and Protect Your Community Association’s Brand: Why Boards Should File Trademarks By Katelyn R. Kaman, Esq.

In today’s fast paced world of technology and innovation, so many of us hear how important is to establish a “brand.”  Even community association board members should be thinking about how they can brand their association’s business operations to bring an expectation of professionalism to the association’s operations.  An effective brand can help create a positive image of the board’s interaction with current owners and even entice new residents to move into the community.

One way board members can make their community’s brand memorable and recognizable is to use a catchy slogan or logo.  Slogans and logos can be used on all board communications, letterhead, newsletters, and handbooks.  When an owner sees the logo or slogan, they will immediately know it is an official communication relating to the association’s business and operations.

If an association’s board wants to use a slogan or logo, it should consider trademarking the slogan or logo to make sure it is not confused with or used by other associations or businesses.  A “trademark” is any name, word, symbol, or combination of any name, word, or symbol used to identify and distinguish goods and the source of those goods.  Trademarks are used around the world so consumers associate specific slogans and logos with their favorite brands.  A perfect example is the Nike “swoosh.” An example of a trademarked community association slogan is “The Villages:  Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.”

When deciding whether to file for a trademark, boards should understand that trademarks must meet certain requirements.  The Ohio Secretary of State is the state agency charged with administrative oversight of trademark applications filed in Ohio.  Since community associations provide services to association members, rather than goods, the application that would be filed with the Secretary of State is technically called an application for a “service mark.”  Some of the requirements for trademarks include: the mark must be in use at the time of the filing, a specimen of the mark in use must be provided with the application, and the mark itself must not be deceptive, geographically descriptive, or merely descriptive, such as “World’s Best Condo Association.”

Once a trademark has been approved by the Secretary of State, if it is determined that someone else is using the trademark after it is filed without the association’s permission, the board may be able to take legal action against that person or entity to stop them from using it.

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