You want to keep the momentum going for your creative business. So how do you pick a name that won’t get you in legal hot water and force a re-brand?
In this week’s episode, I share what a trademark search is, why it’s important, and if you can DIY it.
Watch the video | Listen or download an audio-only version | Read the show notes | Read the transcript
- Learn my step-by-step process for doing a trademark search here (+ grab a checklist to keep track of your progress!)
- Read why I think investing in hiring an attorney for your trademark is smart
- Learn all five steps of the trademark process
- Read Lela Barker’s story and how she learned the hard (and expensive) way that there’s a sweet spot to when you should file your trademark registration application
- Leave a question or sign up to vote on future episodes here
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When you’re growing your creative business, you want to keep building momentum not go back to square one.
So how can you make sure that you’re picking a name either when you’re first starting out or when you’re rebranding that’s not going to get you in legal hot water?
That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this week’s episode of Ask Kiff.
Hi, I’m Kiffanie Stahle, founder of the artist’s J.D. A place designed to add ease to the legalese of running your creative business.
This week we’re answering a question submitted by Val in New York. Val asks,
When I’m renaming my business, do I need to do a trademark search? If so, how do I do it?
Trademark searches are just doing some research to find out what other businesses are out there that have similar names. That’s all a trademark search is.
And usually, when it comes to trademarks I am very anti-DIY. Trademarks are one of those things that I think you should invest in having an attorney do for you.
But there’s one step of the process, which I will put a link down below so that you can read all of the steps of the process of going through a trademark. There’s one step of the process that I do think you can DIY if you want to. And that’s doing these trademark searches.
So how are you going to do a trademark search?
Luckily, another link I’m gonna give you is a blog post that I created that’s more than 2000 words long. And it goes through step-by-step my process for doing a trademark search.
And believe me, this is not a quick and dirty process. It’s something that I, as an attorney, set aside an entire morning for. It’s something that’s going to take you a little bit of time to get through.
And that’s because we’re not just going to the USPTO database and typing in the name and seeing what appears.
What we have to do is search in three different places. We have to search the USPTO database. We have to search a domain name database. And then we also have to go to Google and search.
Why do we have to do all three? Why can’t it just be quick and easy?
Well, that’s because unlike copyrights trademarks don’t have to be registered to be enforced. Trademarks are kind of like old school playground rules. The first person to plant the flag and say, “I’m using this phrase to show consumers that I’m offering this product or service.” I’m the first one to do it; I get to stop everyone after me.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve registered it or not. Granted registration makes it a whole lot easier to enforce. But you can enforce your trademark without a registration.
So that’s why it’s important to search all three of these places when we’re trying to find out who else is out there.
The second reason we’ve got to search all three places is that we can’t just do an exact search and look for things that are exactly the same. Because it’s all about would consumers be confused.
Would consumers be confused if I created a luggage company called Delta? Probably. Because Delta Airlines might come out with luggage. If I was doing an airport car service, Delta would probably be able to stop me. Because it would be likely that Delta could come up with some sort of airport car service or luggage.
However, Delta Water Faucets and Delta Dental probably wouldn’t be able to stop me from doing either of those things. Because consumers aren’t going to think, “Oh, that’s the exact same company that’s offering me those unrelated services.”
So, Val, I hope that answers your questions!
Yes, I think if you’re going through a renaming or if you’re starting out your creative business, you should do a trademark search. And I think you can DIY it if you’re willing to set aside 4, 6, maybe even 8 hours to go through this process meticulously. If not, hire someone to do it for you. Attorneys love to do these things so they can do it for you.
Make sure you tune in next week when I’m going to answer the question, “Can I just have shop policies?” I’m gonna tell you my perspective on why shop policies are a good first step, but not the end all be all.
Got a question you want me to cover in an upcoming video? Leave it in the comments below.
Talk to you soon.