Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times, “When is the best time to apply for a trademark?”
In response to these questions, discussions with my marketing coach, and real-life events, I’ve decided now is the time to address this issue. You’ve read about protecting your brand when you’re low on cash but now you’re ready to take the leap. So here’s what you should know when deciding the best time to invest in protecting your brand.
1. Failing To Plan, Is Planning To Fail
Tani Chambers and I are in total agreement that it is not wise to pour a lot of money into a business without first determining how you will make that money back. It is vital to the success of your business to take the time to actually map out a plan to make sure you have a viable business. If your business isn’t going to make money what’s the point of registering a trademark? Trademarks protect brand identifiers. Meaning they identify the source of a good or service. If there is no brand what are you protecting?
You don’t have to wait until you are actually making money (see point number 2) to apply for a trademark. Once you’ve established that you have a viable business, it’s time to start thinking about registering your marks.
Real-Life Example: Noir BnB and Noire BnB: two companies, same name, offering the same service. The owners independently came up with the idea to create a website targeted toward people of color that travel, but their response to a growing problem caused confusion amongst consumers, leaving both parties looking to find a solution. After talks of combining their companies failed, one party filed for a trademark for both names. Leaving the other to find another name.
2. The Early Bird Gets The Worm
Which brings us to point 2, don’t sleep on your idea! Both of these companies presumably spent a considerable amount of money on developing their website, branding, and marketing. Neither Noir BnB nor Norie BnB thought to register their trademarks. Most fail to protect their brand until they are actually ready to launch out of fear that someone may “steal their idea.” Here’s the thing, in the U.S. the rule is first to use not first to file. If you wait until launch time to use your trademarks and fail to register it you risk the chance of someone beating you to the punch.
This is where the Noir(e) BnBs hit the snooze button. If you’re not quite ready to use your trademark but have a viable intent to use a mark in the immediate future, you can apply for an intent to use trademark registration with the United States and Patent Office. This process costs you a little extra, but it’ll give you the protection you need.
3. Look Before You Leap
Before you invest tons of money in branding and marketing, perform a trademark clearance search. This is the process of researching the availability of your mark. Remember the USPTO is looking for the likelihood of confusion among other things, to make sure the consumer can readily identify the source of a good or service. The office is not looking for identical marks; rather they will analyze the overall feel of the mark to make sure there is no confusion.
Now, that you know when to apply for a trademark, I want to challenge you to take this information a step further with my FREE 5-day #OwnYourGenius Challenge. This challenge is perfect for you if you’re looking to learn the basics about intellectual property and discover how to identify and protect your brand the right way.
Click here to sign up and take the challenge today.
LaConya Murray, Esq.
If you have questions or if you need assistance with registering your trademark, schedule a time to talk with me.