Why You Should Trademark the Name of Your Donut Shop

Happy National Donut Day! Today is the day to celebrate one of the most delicious and popular treats in the world: the donut. Whether you prefer them glazed, filled, sprinkled, or plain, donuts are a sweet way to start your day or indulge your cravings. But did you know that donuts are also a serious business? According to IBISWorld, the U.S. donut industry had a market size of $7.3 billion 2022, and is expected to pass $7.4 billion in 2023. That’s a lot of dough!

Here are some reasons why you should trademark your donut shop name:

a variety of different kinds of donuts

Happy National Donut Day! Today is the day to celebrate one of the most delicious and popular treats in the world: the donut. Whether you prefer them glazed, filled, sprinkled, or plain, donuts are a sweet way to start your day or indulge your cravings. But did you know that donuts are also a serious business? According to IBISWorld, the U.S. donut industry had a market size of $7.3 billion 2022, and is expected to pass $7.4 billion in 2023. That’s a lot of dough!

If you own or plan to start a donut shop, you may wonder how to stand out from the competition and attract loyal customers. One way to do that is to trademark the name of your donut shop. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. Trademarks are valuable assets for businesses, as they help to build brand recognition and loyalty among customers. They also protect your business from unfair competition and confusion in the marketplace.

Here are some reasons why you should trademark your donut shop name:

1. You can prevent others from using your name or a similar name

One of the main benefits of trademarking your donut shop is that you can prevent others from using your name or a similar name for their donut shops or related goods or services. This can help you avoid losing customers or sales to competitors who may try to copy or imitate your name. It can also help you avoid legal disputes or lawsuits with other businesses who may claim that you are infringing on their trademarks.

For example, did you know that CRONUT® is a registered trademark of Dominique Ansel Bakery? The cronut is a hybrid pastry that combines a croissant and a donut, and it was invented by chef Dominique Ansel in 2013. Since then, the cronut has become a worldwide sensation, with long lines and high demand at his bakery in New York City. To protect his creation and brand, Ansel registered CRONUT as a trademark in 2015, and has enforced his rights against other bakeries who have tried to use the name cronut or similar names for their products.

2. You can create a distinctive identity for your donut shop

Another benefit of trademarking the your donut brand is that you can create a distinctive identity for your donut shop that reflects your vision and values. A trademark can convey a message about the quality, style, flavor, or origin of your donuts, and can help you connect with your target audience. A trademark can also help you create a memorable impression on your customers and make them want to come back for more.

A classic example is DUNKIN’®, which is a registered trademark of Dunkin’ Brands Inc. The company started as a single donut shop called Open Kettle in 1948 and changed its name to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Since then, the company has expanded to over 12,000 locations worldwide, offering not only donuts but also coffee, sandwiches, and other beverages and snacks. The name DUNKIN’ reflects the company’s mission to provide customers with fast and convenient food and drinks that they can enjoy anytime and anywhere.

Another great example is KRISPY KREME®, registered by Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation The company was founded in 1937 by Vernon Rudolph, who bought a secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe from a French chef in New Orleans. He opened his first store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he sold his hot and fresh doughnuts to local grocery stores and passersby. Today, the company operates over 1,400 stores in 33 countries, and sells its doughnuts online and through retail partners. The name KRISPY KREME® reflects the company’s signature product: light and airy doughnuts with a crispy exterior and a melt-in-your-mouth interior.

3. You can increase the value of your donut shop

A third benefit of trademarking the name of your donut shop is that you can increase the value of your donut shop as a business asset. A trademark can add value to your donut shop by enhancing its reputation, goodwill, and customer loyalty. A trademark can also attract potential investors, partners, or buyers who may be interested in acquiring or licensing your donut shop or its products. A trademark can also help you expand your business to new markets or locations by licensing or franchising your trademark to others.

One particular brand, which also happens to be my personal favorite, that is leveraging their trademark and growing into new markets is THE SALTY®, owned by The Salty Donut Inc. They started in 2014 selling their donuts out of a 1950’s style camper in Wynwood. Now, not only do they have multiple brick and mortar locations in Miami, but they are also in Dallas, Austin, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, and even Charlotte!

How to trademark your donut shop?

A donut shop

If you are convinced that trademarking the name of your donut shop is a good idea, here are some steps you should take before applying for a trademark:

  • Conduct a trademark search to see if your name or a similar name is already in use by someone else

  • Identify your goods or services that you offer or intend to offer under your name (like bakery services, café services, or even doughnut shop)

  • Decide on your filing basis, whether you are already using your name in commerce (actual use) or you have a bona fide intention to use it in commerce in the future (intent-to-use)

However, before you apply for a trademark, you should also be aware of some limitations and challenges that may affect your rights and protection:

  • You cannot register generic terms, such as “donut” or “doughnut”, as trademarks

  • You cannot register descriptive terms, such as “glazed” or “sugar”, unless they have acquired secondary meaning, which means they have become distinctive through long and exclusive use

  • You cannot register geographic terms, such as “New York” or “Boston”

  • You cannot register deceptive terms, such as “organic” or “vegan”, if they are false or misleading about the nature of your goods or services

  • You cannot register confusingly similar terms, such as “Krispie Kreme” or “Dunking Donuts”, if they are likely to cause confusion with existing trademarks

  • You cannot enforce your trademark rights against prior users, who have used their mark before you in good faith and without knowledge of yours

  • You cannot enforce your trademark rights against remote users, who have used their mark in different geographic areas where there is no likelihood of confusion

These limitations and challenges are based on various legal doctrines and precedents that govern trademark law in the U.S., such as:

  • The Dawn Donut rule (Yes! There’s a trademark rule that originated with donuts!), which states that if there is no likelihood of confusion between two marks because they are used in different geographic areas (such as two local donut shops), then there is no infringement until one party expands its business into the other party’s territory

  • The fair use doctrine, which states that if someone uses another’s mark for descriptive purposes only without implying any endorsement by them (such as using “cronut” as a generic term for croissant-donut hybrids), then there is no infringement

  • The genericide doctrine, which states that if someone uses another’s mark so frequently and widely that it becomes generic (like using “kleenex” for any tissue paper or “coke” to refer to any soda), then they lose their exclusive rights to use it (which is also why brands often try to fight back against their marks being used generically)

Before you apply for a trademark, you should consult with an experienced trademark attorney who can advise you on how to choose a strong and distinctive mark, how to conduct a comprehensive search, how to file an accurate application, how to respond to any office actions, how to monitor any oppositions, how to maintain and renew your registration, how to enforce and defend your rights, and how to avoid any pitfalls.

As we’ve discussed above, trademarking the name of your donut shop can be a smart move for many reasons: it can prevent others from using your name or a similar name; it can create a distinctive identity for your donut shop; it can increase the value of your donut shop; it can even help you celebrate National Donut Day! However, trademarks can also be a complex and lengthy process that requires careful planning and preparation, which is why you should consider hiring a trademark attorney to assist you with it. Have more questions about trademark protection? Contact us today!