Have your own organization, company, website, or anything with a unique name, logo, or tagline? Or do you plan to start something soon? Then developing and protecting your brand is something that you should think about.
In this post I talk about when you should and shouldn’t trademark names, logos, or slogans. It’s something I found to be very interesting from presentation last Monday night by Andrei Mincov, founder of TradeMark Factory. I also share some tips on what you can do to protect your brand even if you don’t decide to get it trademarked.
I’ve developed several brands in the past. In developing each brand, I’d look to see that no one else has the same name, but not once did I really think about how I can protect my brand.
In the past 2 years, I had two occurrences where someone got to my brand name plus or minus the word “the”. In one case someone in China offered to sell the domain name to me for thousands of dollars. Screw that! I changed the name slightly and got a new domain name for $5 bucks. Horray for namecheap, where anyone can get domain names for even less than $4 a year!
In my case, not trademarking my brand didn’t end up hurting me too much. But there are cases where something as simple as not renewing one domain name led to thousands of dollars spent on lawsuits.
So after creating a brand (I’ll talk about how to create an effective brand in another post), you should think about whether you want to trademark your brand. There’s 3 questions you want to ask yourself:
Should I trademark names, logos, or slogans?
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer so I am not offering legal advice here.
- Is not having to change your name, logo, or slogan something worth fighting for?
So if someone else trademarks your company logo for example, and tells you that you now have to switch logos, would you fight them for it? Keep in mind that the cost of going into legal battles could be huge ($75k for example). If it’s OK for you to change up your logo a bit, then there’s probably no point in worrying if someone is going to steal it.
- If someone is using your name, logo, or slogan, are you willing to fight for it?
Again an example: If someone on the other side of the country decides to use the same name for their company, would you fight them for it? What about someone in the same town? Or on the internet in general? Again it’s going to cost money and time to fight them, so you may not want to take action.
- Does the brand produce money, customers, or credibility?
If not, then it’s probably not worth spending the money to protect it.
More information can be found at Trademark Factory.
If you answer no to these questions, then you DON’T need to register for a trademark. After all, what’s the point of spending money on trademarking your stuff if you are not going to utilize it. My takeaway is that a trademark protects your name, logo, or slogan when other people want to fight you for it, or when you want to fight other people for it. If you are not going to fight, then a trademark is kind of just going to sit there and not do much.
So how can you protect your brand if you don’t trademark it?
There’s a few things you can do:
- Register the domain name and names similar to it.
So grab companyname.com if it’s available. And also thecompanyname.com company-name.com .net .whatever if you want to claim similarly named sites as yours. You can then redirect the people who put in an extra word or misspelled something to your companyname.com website.
- Register social media profiles for your brand.
Get the facebook page, twitter handle, foursquare, whatever. Even if you don’t use it now, if you ever need to you have your brand available on these social media sites.
- Document use of your brand.
So save receipts of business cards, domain names, etc. That way if your domain name expires, you can still show that you used the name first.
- Use TM sign.
At Andrei’s seminar I was surprised to hear that you can just put TM signs next to your stuff without having to talk to a lawyer first. This offers you a certain level of protection in so much that when someone sees the TM sign next to your brand, they are likely to think twice before stealing it. So just start putting them everywhere.
If keeping your brand IS something you are willing to fight for, then they can be protected by registering for a trademark. If you are curious how much it would cost to trademark your brand, you can receive a free trademark search report and consultation here.