One of the most common mistakes we see are clients waiting until a conflict arises with their brand name or likeness before reaching out. At this point your options are limited, and you may have already forfeited the rights to your own name. Protecting your name or likeness is rarely top of mind for an entrepreneur, but it should be.
The USPTO takes anywhere from 6-10 months to review an application, meaning it can be well over a year after an application that the mark is approved. Traditionally, trademark disputes give priority to the first to file. If you launch your business and wait a year before calling a trademark attorney, and someone has already filed for a similar name or logo during that time, you will likely be denied registration and have to re-brand. This begs the question: when should you start investing in your intellectual property and hire a trademark attorney?
Answer: As early as possible. As soon as you bring in enough revenue to validate your business model, you should immediately budget for trademarks and intellectual property protection. Don’t think brand confusion matters? Trademark infringement lawsuits typically cost between $120,000 to $750,000, with statutory damages ranging from $1,000 to $2,000,000 per counterfeit mark. The peace of mind intellectual property protection offers you is priceless, but it can also save you a lot of money in the long run.
To simplify the analysis, here are three indications that you need a trademark:
- You have an e-commerce or large social media presence. Whether it is going viral on Tik Tok or opening a Shopify storefront, social media extends your reach to other states and potentially even other countries. You are visible to the world, and if your brand continues to scale, it is crucial that you begin to take steps to protect your likeness.
- You invest a lot of money in your brand. This should be obvious, but readers would be amazed how often we see six figure investments without any thought to IP protection. Before you make a large investment, call us to research the brand name and tell you if it has a good chance of registrability. If it doesn’t, you will save a lot of money not having to redo all your design and marketing.
- Copycats join the party. Perhaps you were the only business of your kind in the area, and now that market is expanding. We all like to think that no one will “copy” us (the shame!) or that we’ve come up with a unique enough name or logo. Most entrepreneurs never even see it coming, and that’s exactly where the other party will have the advantage. With over 13.9 million trademark applications on file with the USPTO, it’s best to hire an attorney to comb through the database for you and help figure out your best path forward. Planning ahead is the name of the game when it comes to protecting your intellectual property.
Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. A good trademark analysis and registration is far cheaper (and less stressful) than an office action or lawsuit in federal court. Call a trademark attorney at Campbell Teague to guide you through the process so you can focus on what matters: growing your brand.
This is a part of a three-part blog series, including:
What to Hire A TM Attorney For: Slogans, Logos, and Names, Oh My!