In case you didn’t know, I recently co-wrote a book. Hooray! In that process, I had quite a lot of research to do in the form of copyrights and trademarks. What are they? Why do I need them? How do I get them? What are the rules? It was a whole process.
Luckily, I have an amazing attorney to help me navigate (I am not a lawyer, and I would definitely recommend getting one for this process), but in all that research, I thought I would impart to you the basics to help you decide when and if you should apply for a trademark.
What IS a trademark?
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark:
… can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. It’s how customers recognize you in the marketplace and distinguish you from your competitors.
Totally clear, right? Uh, WRONG! It still seemed so vague to me.
So, a clearer way to define it is that obtaining a trademark is the only way to legally protect the ownership of what you consider to be your brand. Even if you have all the social media, websites, logo wear, etc., none of that will protect your brand the way a trademark will.
3 Reasons to Trademark Your Brand
1. Eliminate risk. When you create a trademark for your company or brand, you are preventing someone else from challenging you for ownership to your brand identity. This will save you time and money in legal fees, should someone try to brand themselves with your logo, slogans, etc. (depending on what, exactly, you are trademarking).
You might not think this is a “thing,” but I was once sued over the use of a specific phrase found on my website because someone else was trying to trademark it. It actually happens, even to small businesses.
2. Stop copycats. Just like the above example, sometimes other people will try to capitalize on your creativity. Having a trademark will prevent others from using your brand to sell their own products or services. Moreover, having that trademark will usually eliminate the need to take the other person to court, as a simple letter will prevent any kind of legal escalation.
3. Build an asset. For those of you who follow me regularly, you know how much I love to build assets, and creating a dedicated trademark can do just that. A trademark can be an extremely valuable asset that you can sell, franchise, leverage, or license in the future.
What should you trademark?
Not everything can be trademarked, but when protecting your business, you should consider trademarking your business name or DBA (for example: McDonald’s), specific names of your products or services (the McRib, McCafe, McFlurry), your logo (Golden Arches), and your slogans or catchphrases (“I’m lovin’ it”). If you took all the time to craft these ideas, then you should protect them and own them, legally!
Where should you trademark?
Did you know you can trademark globally? I sure didn’t! But I recommend (and again, I’m not a lawyer, so please consult one) starting locally. Start by trademarking your brand in your own country.
If you have an international market, then you can discuss with your lawyer what that might look like and at what point you need to consider this. For example, if you make $10 in revenue from France, you might not need to pursue a trademark there; however, if you gross $100,000 in France, obtaining a trademark in France might be worth it.
Moreover, if you have excessive marketing expenses out of country, or if you manufacture your products out of country, you might also want to obtain trademarks in those countries. Why? Imagine your products are made in India or China or Honduras, but you don’t hold a trademark in those countries. Technically, someone else could obtain that trademark, and then you could be prevented from exporting your own products because you don’t own the trademark. Boooooo!
When to obtain a trademark?
There is no hard and fast rule on when you should obtain a trademark, but the last thing you want is to arrive late to the trademarking party. If you truly care about your brand and are trying to build it, then obtaining a trademark early is imperative, not to mention the fact that it can take over a year for all the paperwork to come through! Plus, if you file even a day after someone else, you could spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting in court over your own brand, and no one wants to do that!
The point is, that if you are building your own personal empire, you need to look into trademarking your brand. If it’s worth spending time and money on building it, then it’s worth spending time and money to protect it. Trust me.
How to get a trademark?
Again, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t mess around with my time and money. If you are looking to get a trademark, seek out a legal professional who can truly guide you through the process. It’s worth it to have it done right, the first time.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.