Rule #1- Don’t try to trademark your logo, business name, tag line, etc. without professional help.
I see people screw up their trademarks on a regular basis. Trademark law is not as complex as patent law, but it is not easy for most law persons. Don’t be cheap. Get professional help.
Rule #2- Your lawyer may not be the right lawyer for your trademark needs.
About 25% of my trademark cases come from clients who first hired a lawyer who knew nothing about trademark law, and then they came to me for help. If another lawyer files a trademark improperly, I have to charge the client more to fix the trademark application than I would have charged to do the entire filing from the beginning myself. It is always more and harder work for me to fix another lawyer’s mistakes, than it is for me to do the job right the first time.
Rule #3- Decide on an I.P. strategy sooner than later.
Not all logo’s, company names, tag lines, etc. should be trademarked. Or, state trademarks might be enough, and there is no need for a federal mark. If you use a good trademark lawyer, he or she will discuss strategy with you first. If your trademark lawyer hasn’t engaged in cost-benefit analysis of various strategies with you, fire that lawyer and find a better one.
Rule #4- Protect your trademarks.
Once you get a trademark or service mark, protect that investment. Indicate ownership of your business name with an ® if it is registered as a federal trademark, a ™ if it is an unregistered trademark and a SM if it is an unregistered service mark.
Rule #5- Understand that trademarks are not the only ways to protect your I.P.
* If you plan on incorporating, register your name with your state’s secretary of state.
* Common law rights can be just as powerful as statutory trademarks.
* Federal law protects certain domain names from Cyber Squatters.
* Copyrights are different than trademarks. Learn when to use which set of protections.
* First in time often equates to first in right. So, be able to prove "first-use" by keeping records that document the date you began using your business name.
* If you do business abroad, you should also register your business name there.
* If you go over state lines, you better see a trademark lawyer about your needs, rights and risks. Everything changes when you do business over state lines. Remember the Internet enables you to do business anywhere at any time- day or night!
Matthew A. Griffith is a business and real estate attorney, entrepreneur, business success coach and investor. He guides small business owners, management teams, inventors and investors to profitability using both time-tested and innovative business ideas, methods, tools and techniques. For a consultation, contact him via email- firstname.lastname@example.org