Trademark Thy Business Name
Lots of news and conversation lately about trademarks and it’s made me think about this company’s experience and the vigilance a business-owner needs particularly in a “hot” space.
First, I read how there’s “green gridlock” at the US Trademark Office with an overall 10% spike in trademark filings for green-themed marks over 2006. The most popular was for marks using “green” with 2,400 occurrences up from 1,100 occurrences in 2006, and following a 36% increase in 2006 and 23% increase in 2005. Whoa!
Apparently, “with multiple companies filing for almost-identical marks at nearly the same time …it’s not easy being green, since a trademark by definition is a distinctive term. … Many of these me-too filings will either not merit legal protection or will be very weak trademarks,” says the AdAge article.
This is exactly what my Twitter buddy, Dana owner of the trademark Mamalogues, has been dealing with. However, her trademark is already registered and approved, but that hasn’t stopped the owner of a similarly named website to try and weaken her intellectual property rights.
Then, I saw that my buddies at Sk*rt are going through a legal situation over their own business name. I don’t know the story, apart from what they list on their website: “under threat of lawsuit, Morris Publishing, the owner of Skirt! Magazine, is forcing us to rebrand and relaunch our website. We pledge to do this in a way that will have minimum impact on you, the users.”
The message is clear folks: PROTECT THY NAME.
And do it sooner, rather than later.
Firstly seeking trademark registration is standard business procedure. As I understand it, before you launch a business or brand in commerce, Step #1 is to make sure you are legally permitted to use the name. Then, Step #2 is to protect your brand name by applying for trademark registration in the business areas where you have a bona fide plan for use. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Trust me, before we decided to use Alpha Mom as our business name, we spent money (lots of it) researching its usage in every state in the US. We were searching to see whether the name had been registered in other areas apart from trademark. Then, once we determined it was “cleared for trademark application,” very detailed analyses and conversations with our lawyers transpired. As you can read on the USPTO website, just because a name doesn’t show up on the trademark database doesn’t mean that it is going to be allowed for use by the trademark office. Extensive research is needed.
Yes, I am over-simplifying a very detailed, laborious and (for us) expensive legal procedure. But, remember this. If you have a business name or brand name which you are or are planning to use in commerce soon, register it.
Don’t let the amount of effort or money this company invested deter you from tackling a trademark application. I bet there are tutorials available that you can access to find out how to apply for trademark use that will allow you to minimize costs. (See that nice disclaimer in the right hand column, this is NOT legal advice).