29 - Tip Tuesday - Trademarks with Tamsen Horton

podcast | Nov 30, 2017

I'm not sure if you're anything like me, but I have always found Trademarks a giant mystery.  I was never sure if you should do it when immediately starting your business, or if you should wait until it hits a certain threshold.  I also once tried to do the Trademark process on my own, and well, overwhelmed, is a complete understatement.  Tamsen Horton of Vujà Dé Law came for a visit again to break down trademarks, and she gave us some great information.

What does a trademark actually do for us? Trademark is the legal process that helps consumers identify the source of the goods. At its core, it is the tool that helps consumers know exactly where the product came from.

A trademark is different from a patent. Patents are when you are protecting the idea and how something works. This is also different from Copyright, which is more of music, lyrics and things that we create.

When should we approach the trademarking process? This process should always start with the question “Am I committed to this name?”  When you know the name is the name or you know the logo is the logo that is when you trademark. When it’ll help consumers pull you out from the crowd and want what you are selling.

What exactly do you trademark? USPTO.gov will give you all the information you need for trademarking including more information on the different kinds of trademark.

Word mark: Only letters. For example: Business name

Symbols: These are your logos and are stylized.

Combination: A word mark or a word that is always tied to your symbol.

Should you wait until your business is growing to trademark? Yes and no. Some clients come in and it is just an idea but we know there is a huge potential for growth, it’s the name, it’s the logo, and it’s the real deal. In which I would advise them to go ahead and trademark right away.

If you want to try out your name before you trademark a good first step would be to put the ™ behind the name that you are going to trademark. This tells the world that you are claiming ownership of this name. This is used for testing a name for a business or a program. This will give you base level of protection. This is not a full protection but a thread of evidence for a judge that says this name was yours.  You also use this when you are starting the application process for trademark but you are waiting for official registration.

When your trademark has been approved by USPTO then you can use ®. Once you have ®, that is your name, your mark, you can fully enforce it and you have all of the federal protection.

Should you do it yourself or seek help? You can do it yourself; there are all kinds of videos and education on it. However, it is a different language and you have to make sure you are getting your application in the right category and you have to disclaim ownership of common terms within your name. It takes about 4 months for your file to be looked at by the review board, so if you have done it wrong, you have just wasted 4 months. When it is sent back, all the needed corrections are in legalese, which is usually the point when a person doing it on their own realizes they are in over their head. It is really helpful to go ahead and seek help from an attorney at the beginning.

Where should you look when checking for the name that you want to use for your business?  Go to the US Trademark Page. Start with the trademark. Some people will spend a year or two getting their program up and running, getting a domain name and having everything completely done and then what if it is already trademarked? It happens all the time.

Another thing to think about is are you willing to enforce this trademark? Once you own it, you are responsible for it. When people are using your name you must give them notice that you own it.

Also important to know that just because you own a domain name that does not make the name trademarked.

What is the cost to file for trademark? The cost to file the application is $275.00 with the electronic system and $325.00 when you send them paper. There is a separate application (and also fee) for each class of trademark.

The law has changed to first to file instead of first to use. So even if you have used a name for a few years and someone trademarks the name you have been using, they have full rights, you do not. 

Here is Tamsen's promised IP guide:  IPGuide

More About Tamsen:  Tamsen Horton spent ten years in business before deciding to become an attorney and launch her own business Vuja De Law. Vuja De means to see life from a new perspective and that is what Tamsen has done with every aspect of her business and life. She helps busy moms and business owners protect what matters most by creating ridiculously easy and solid legal plans that they can actually get excited about. When she’s not busy changing the face of law she’s a proud teachers wife and toddler mama. Check out her tips on how you can protect what matters most at vujadelaw.com.

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