“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked.
I often wonder what celebrities are thinking when they name their kids Tu (Morrow), Moon Unit (Zappa), or North (West, of Kardashian-West fame) — or not thinking. Somehow, celebrities latch on to an idea … which may have been hilarious after a few too many third trimester Appletinis … and the name sticks. They fall in love with the name and can’t let go.
They can’t see reason. I often wonder if they have considered what it would it be like for a 9 year-old kid having to answer to, “Pilot Inspektor? Is Pilot Inspektor here?”
I’ve seen this happen with small businesses, too. Some small business owners come up with a great business name and a catchy tagline. Then, one of two things happens:
They think that simply because they’ve conceived it, no one else can use it.
they rush to trademark it, only to find that it cannot be protected.
Can you imagine having to come up with another name for your child? Especially after calling her by that name for years on end and investing a lot of money in the name? Tough, right?
Intellectual property—and trademarks—can become a vital and lucrative part of your business. But only if they have value. Consider these four tips to reap the rewards of your creativity and hard work:
Conduct a trademark search. Ensure your trademark can be protected. If someone else has already registered a trademark – or one that is very similar – you may not be able to use it. Checking with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is not enough. That database only covers applications filed and registered with that office. Plus, the search may cover only exact marks. The USPTO can bounce your application because of confusion with similar marks. Complete a comprehensive search for any trademarks that are similar to yours.
Don’t rely on a domain name search, only. Just because you own the URL doesn’t mean you have the rights to a trademark. Don’t simply rely on a domain name search. Just because a domain name is for sale doesn’t mean the trademark is also available.
Don’t use obvious trademarks. You can’t use a generic name as your trademark. Marketing your new clothing line using the trademark “Clothes” won’t work – the USPTO would never let it be registered. It has to be a unique and distinctive.
Once your trademark is cleared, take action. No one will protect your trademark for you. It’s not the USPTO’s responsibility to ensure no one else uses your trademark in the marketplace. If you don’t keep a close tabs on this, you could lose the rights to your mark. Monitor the market for anyone infringing on your trademark.
Remember, your brand is your brain-child. Be proactive in protecting it as you would your own children. Enlist experts to make sure it’s done right the first time.