Do you remember the 1980’s Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America?
In a classic scene, one of the supporting characters is a businessman who owns a restaurant named McDowell’s, NOT McDonald’s. He explains it best:
“Look…me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s…I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick.”
And in fact, the owner of a local McDonald’s near the filming location approached the set design team and threatened to sue for trademark infringement, completely unaware that this “new competitor” was actually part of a movie set.
So how does this apply to dentists?
While this scene provides plenty of laughter, there are also important real-life lessons that could be learned from this fictional scenario, especially when it comes to branding and trademarks.
There are two very common mistakes many dentists make when it comes to dental practice branding:
- Failing to brand the practice
- Failing to protect the brand
Failing to brand the practice
Many dentists don’t realize the power of branding. It’s the reason you immediately picture the golden arches when you read “McDonald’s”, but it’s not just for large corporations. A dentist’s brand is what differentiates one dentist from the next. It’s his/her practice identity within the community, both online and in person. Simply put, without a brand, it’s difficult to effectively promote your practice.
Failing to protect the brand
At the core of any dentist’s brand is the practice name. Whether it’s in the name of the doctor, or something more representative of the services, philosophy or local community, the practice name is incredibly important – and valuable. And when working with my Pride clients to develop a new practice name, I always advise them to hire a business attorney to trademark the new practice name.
– First, when you’re developing a new brand and name for your practice, you want to ensure there’s not already a dentist in the local area using the same name. Not only would that cause mass confusion among local patients and waste your marketing dollars, but if another dentist has filed a trademark on your potential new name, it could cause you significant legal hassles.
– Once you’ve conducted a search and verified there isn’t another practice using the same name in the local area, have your attorney file a trademark on the new name (both the words and the logo). This will protect you in the event a new dentist wants to use the same name in the future.
Is this rare? Yes. Do trademark issues actually affect dentists? YES. Taking the necessary steps to properly brand your practice from the start will minimize any future legal headaches, patient confusion and wasted marketing dollars later. It’s well worth the time and energy to create a practice name that is all your own – and protect it!
*Please note: I am a marketing expert. I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV. Consult your business attorney for a more complete discussion on trademarking your dental practice.