What is the first step you should take in order to trademarking your business?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Talk to a Lawyer Repeatedly
The very first thing you should do is a talk to a lawyer. Their initial research and feedback can help inform the development of your IP, and then, when ready, they can help shepherd you through an application process. We see way too many entrepreneurs invest a huge amount, only to find out their mark was not protectable, or try to go it alone and receive an office action.
2. Conduct a Trademark Search
You’re presumed to be aware of every federally registered trademark, so if you start using a name and later find out that it was registered to someone else, then, at worst, you could be liable for trademark infringement. Even at best, you could still be forced to shut down your website and change the name/brand ofyour company. So always conduct a comprehensive trademark search before you commit to a name.
3. Invent a Word
Seriously! It is unwise to apply for a mark on a word or term that already exists, especially if it often used in your industry. You might not get it, and it’s costly as you expand globally. Original marks like Google, AirBnB and Uber are even more powerful as they allow you to own the domain and social media handles and expand your IP, brand value and SEO.
4. Think Internationally
If you’re truly ambitious, don’t just settle for a U.S. trademark. Go and register it in the European Union, Australia, etc. to avoid buying from squatters later on.
5. Understand the Terminology
Trademarks, patents and copyrights are all different. Each protects a different type of property. Make sure that you understand what a trademark is and isn’t and what it does and doesn’t protect prior to filing.
6. Consider the Critical Parts of Your Business and Identity
The things brands have trademarked may surprise you. So if you have something you’d like to have legal rights to over the long-term, make an attempt to trademark it. Hiring a lawyer to manage the process is a small cost relative to the potential gains if you successfully acquire those trademarks.
7. Do Market Research
So you’ve come up with an incredibly clever and catchy brand for your new product or service. You’ve run it by a few people and they say they love it. Great, but how will your target market respond? Can they pronounce it? Can they spell it? Do they get it (if there’s anything to get)? In short, does it resonate, stick and work with the people that really matter which are your customers?
8. Use the “TM” Symbol Immediately
If you want to claim your right to a trademark, the first thing you should do is start associating your brand with a “TM” symbol. This will put others on notice that you intend to file for a formal registered trademark. Then, file the formal paperwork online through USPTO.
9. Promote It
You should make sure that you are using the term you want to trademark. It’s tough to get a trademark for something you aren’t actively promoting.
10. Proliferate Your Brand
You are making an investment. Strategize to ensure you get a return. Don’t just use your trademark on your website and business card. Think creatively about where else you can project your new brand. Letterheads? Sticky notes? Pens or mugs for friends and clients? Get mileage out of your trademark. Don’t park it in the garage!
11. Cover Your Bases
You could avoid some upfront costs by first determining whether the aspect of your business is appropriate and necessary for trademarking. By doing a proper search you can see if there is a conflicting trademark or if there could be potential overlap. Depending on your circumstances, talking to a lawyer or using a platform like LegalZoom to file for trademark would be your next best step.
12. Make It SEO-Friendly
When looking to trademark, do some research on trends, popular search terms and keywords within your industry. What are some words and phrases thatyour target market is searching for on a regular basis? You want to make sure that what you are trademarking (domain name, company name, company tagline, etc.) is SEO-friendly and something that will not be buried in search engines.