On and off I’ve spoken about branding here on this blog. However, an important part of branding involves protecting your brand with a trademark. I’ve been very interested in this topic, but I felt I couldn’t afford to find out if I needed a trademark–or more than one. Lawyers who specialize in trademarks can be quite expensive! Then, I met Nellie Akalp while attending BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles, CA, this past November. As the CEO of CorpNet, Nellie helps all types of business people, including authors and bloggers, trademark their brands–and she does it at affordable prices. Not only did I want you to know about her service, I wanted Nellie to tell all of us why we might need trademarks. Yes…I want to learn along with you. (If you missed Nellie’s first post on incorporation, read it here.)
New Year’s Guide to Protecting Your Business’s Brand
By Nellie Akalp
If you’re a writer, blogger or author, you know that your business depends on trust. People need to trust that you’re an authentic source of information, that you know your stuff, that you’re offering original content and useful insights and entertaining turns of phrase.
So if you want to build the trust, credibility and authenticity of your business – not only your business name, but also any special phrases or ideas or “nicknames” that you want to be known for – then you need to know about trademarking.
Lots of people think a trademark is that little ® symbol that appears after the name of a company or product. It’s more complicated than that. A trademark is a brand name. It’s a federally-registered intellectual property protection that gives you certain rights to the usage of a certain phrase or name.
A trademark does not have to be the same as the name of your business or your blog.
For example: Let’s say that you’re an expert blogger who writes about how to groom and care for Poodles, and your blog is called www.PoodleCareExpert.com. But as your blog continues to grow, you want to create a trademark to help establish yourself as a “brand name” or introduce a line of Poodle care products.
So let’s say you decide to register a trademark as the “Poodle Doctor.” If you could get a trademark to protect the name “Poodle Doctor,” you could use this name for your blog or as your nickname for speaking engagements and product licensing. (“Come see Poodle Doctor® Jane Smith at the Pet Blogger Expo!” “Buy our exclusive line of Poodle Doctor® Poodle care products!”)
Registering a trademark is an ideal way to build your brand as an expert in your niche. It serves public notice that your “brand name” is already in use (and prevents your competitors from trying to use that same name or infringe on your original idea).
So how can you go about getting a trademark for your “brand name” as a blogger, writer or author?
- You need to find out if your desired trademark is already in use. If someone else has already staked a claim to your dream “brand name,” you’ll need to go back to the drawing board. My company, CorpNet, offers a free trademark search that you can use to search existing federal trademarks and find out if your chosen brand name is still available.
- If you need a higher level of assistance, you can do a comprehensive trademark search (for a $199 fee) that delivers a more thorough search of state and federal records, including pending trademarks that have not yet worked their way through the system. This is the best way to make sure your brand name is “all clear.”
- Once you’re confident that your desired trademark is available, you need to register your trademark with the federal authorities. This process can take up to 9 months depending on the complexity of your trademark.
Do you absolutely have to trademark your brand name as an author, blogger or expert? No. Just by using a name, you have certain “common law” rights as the originator of that name (as long as you’re not infringing on anyone else’s existing copyright). However, if you choose to register a trademark, you have much better legal protections.
Especially if you’re planning on using your brand name to sell products and generate massive publicity for yourself and your company, you’re better off getting your trademark registered. Not only does it protect your rights, but registering a trademark also gives you a viable salable asset that will grow in value along with your business.
If you want to learn more about how to register a trademark, please call CorpNet for a free business consultation. We’ll help you understand your options as you take the next step toward building a lasting, profitable brand.
About the Author
Nellie Akalp is a passionate business blogger and CEO of CorpNet, an online business filing service that helps bloggers, writers, authors and other entrepreneurs start a business and incorporate online. Follow Nellie Akalp on Twitter or at the CorpNet blog.