A couple of times a year, I have to tell a client she has to re-brand her business because her business name isn’t safe to use. This usually is because:
- a creative project or hobby turned into a business
- she didn’t realize the need to do a trademark search
- she wanted to capitalize on a trend
If you name your business something too close to someone else’s trademark, you’ll find out sooner or later. (Usually, in the form of a nasty lawyer-drafted cease and desist letter.)
And when it happens, you’ll have to re-brand. You’ll have to start over from scratch. You’ll have to rebuild brand recognition, business goodwill, and pretty much everything.
I’ve seen this happen more and more in the last few years, which is why in the new Legal Roadmap, it is the first task you complete as part of the Do “enough” legal stuff Map.
Want help getting all your legal ducks in a row?
Wish you had a straightforward strategy to protect your ass(ets) without legal confusion? Then the Legal Roadmap book is your go-to guide.
Inside this book, you’ll find three Maps that will help you build a business you love, built on a strong legal foundation. And you’ll get my guidance step-by-step to execute each of the action items contained in the Maps.
Of course, not all business names are capable of getting a trademark.
You can’t get a trademark for:
- generic terms (like quilts, jewelry, or photography)
- phrases that merely describe the product or service you are offering (like modern quilts or un-corporate headshots)
And while it can be done, it’s also harder to get a trademark when your name includes:
- your name or the name of a living person
- a geographic location
- a generic or descriptive term even when paired with a non-descriptive term
This week, I’m challenging you to make sure your business name is safe to use. Because even if the URL or social media accounts are available, it doesn’t mean the name is okay.
- If your business name is your name or your business name doesn’t meet the trademark criteria, then, congrats! The challenge is complete.
- If your business name isn’t your name and your business name meets the trademark criteria, then you should do a trademark search ASAP, because that’s how you discover if your name will land you in legal hot water.
A trademark search is doing a little research to find out what other businesses are out there with similar names providing similar products or services.
Sadly, a trademark search isn’t a quick and easy process. In fact, I usually set aside an entire morning to do them. But they are the best way to assure you that you won’t have to change your business name once you finally start landing those big accounts or getting press mentions.
The reason these searches take so long is that you have to search three different places:
- the USPTO database
- a domain name database
- a web search (e.g. search via Google or DuckDuckGo)
And your search has to be for both exact business names and similar business names.
Trademark Search Resources
- This blog post breaks down my step-by-step process for doing a trademark search.
- In the Legal Roadmap, I spend an entire chapter helping you pick a name that won’t land you in legal hot water, including sharing my trademark search process and how to get help doing the search. Buy the Legal Roadmap for $20 and get a straightforward strategy to get *all* your legal ducks in a row.
- I’m now offering a research service where I do a trademark search for you! You can hire me to do this search for $399. Buy it here.
Got legal overwhelm? Learn how to protect your ass(ets) without legal confusion
A trademark search is just one of the action items I help you complete as part of the Legal Roadmap. It’s a straightforward strategy to get all your legal ducks in a row.
When you buy the Legal Roadmap for just $20, you’ll get the easiest way to build your business on a solid legal foundation. And you’ll have access to a private 24/7 community of creatives and a library of 20+ checklists, templates, and quick videos helping you run your creative business professionally + legally.
P.S. A Pinterest rabbit hole lead me to these 1940s knitting patterns from the V&A. And the Victoria jumper might just be hitting my needles soon!
Hi! I’m Kiff! I’m your friendly legal eagle (and licensed attorney).
My goal is to add ease to the legalese. And because I think basic legal resources should be available to every creative, I create a lot of free content.
If I’ve created something that has helped inject a little ease into your creative business and you would like to say “thank you”, you can make a contribution here.
If you’d like to hear more from me, I’d love to pop into your inbox every Friday morning to share additional ways to cut through the red-tape and inject a little ease.
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