The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a helpful guide for its employees on trademark clearance and protection.  It provides useful guidance to public sector healthcare concerns and well as private healthcare systems and providers.

The HHS Guide discusses four important areas and benefits of trademark protection:

What is a trademark.   A trademark (also known as a brand name) is any name, word, or symbol used in connection with the marketing of goods or services.  Trademarks are intangible assets and act as a source indicator.  There are four types of trademarks:  marks for goods; marks for services; collective marks that recognize the provider as a member of a select group; and certification marks.

The value of trademarks.   Trademarks are among the most valuable assets of a business.  The more distinctive and well-know a mark is, the greater value it has to potential consumers.  A strong trademark can result in greater competitive advantage.  Hospital trademarks and its service lines are particularly valuable.

Benefits of trademark registration.   Federal registration has many benefits.  These include notice of a claim of ownership; a legal presumption of nationwide ownership; and the exclusive right to use the trademark in connection with the protected goods or services.  Healthcare providers may encounter several situations where having a federal trademark registration would be beneficial.  Trademarks are not just appropriate for hospital names or physician practices.   Examples of  healthcare sector trademarks include brand names for service lines, educational programs, and community volunteer programs.

Trademark clearance.   If you are a hospital or healthcare provider, you should set-up a system to document all of your existing trademarks, slogans, and logos.   Determine if these naming assets are federally registered.  If not, consider doing so with the help of an experienced brand protection attorney.   If you are considering new brand names, a trademark clearance search should be conducted prior to adopting the name for use or possible registration.  Finally, consider implementing a trademark compliance policy to mitigate risks of trademark infringement.