October 27, 2019
If you need to catch up on this series, click here to read my last post, The 5 Unexpected Steps to Make Sure Your Course, Blog or Business Name is Available (with step-by-step walkthrough!)
I’ve been getting dozens of questions over the past few days about naming your online course, blog or business!
And, since there’s so much misinformation out there, here’s a list of the top 9 trademark issues you guys have sent in, dispelled in myth format.
This is one of the biggest problems I see! Your name cannot be similar to a trademark that someone else is using in look or sound.
For example, if you want to create a blog and call it "Wynd," if there's already someone out there with a blog named "Wind" or "Windy" or even "Winned," they could stop you from using your "Wynd" name.
Usually, this happens at the worst possible time-- like when you're headed into a big promo-- and costs a bunch of money that's better spent elsewhere, like on a fun photoshoot for that blog!
Okay, I'm proud of you for getting your business setup in your state. And if you have gone the extra mile to have some sort of legal company like an LLC, bravo!
A little tear of pride just left my eye.
BUT... and this is a big but... (you know you like them and you cannot lie)
Just because you have an LLC, a DBA or any other kind of corporate formation does NOT mean you have a trademark. In fact, you could still find yourself in the situation I just described.
If you need to do some recon and figure out if your business name is available, click here to read my last post where I did a deep dive, step-by-step, on how to do that.
And remember-- your legal business name doesn't have to be the name at the top of your website ;)
When I had the Creative Empire® podcast, our legal business name was "RPCS Holdings LLC," definitely not "Creative Empire LLC!
I wish it were this simple!
To be real, if you have a weird name like "Christina Scalera," you probably are fine. But more often than not, so many of you have name twins, triplets, or even a name so popular that it's hard to find you on the internet.
Even a common last name, like "McDonald," could land you in hot water for obvious reasons (McDonald's is so famous that they pretty much have a monopoly over this common last name).
It's always important to check to see if your name is available, even if it's already your personal name.
Trademarks are anything that tells potential customers that you created the product or service at hand.
Trademarks can be logos, names, colors, taglines, catch phrases, favicons and even smells.
Even if you don't have a logo or any branding yet, you're probably using a name, and therefore the rules apply to you too.
Okay, I agree, traditionally legal stuff (like finding out whether your name is available, and what a trademark is) is pretty boring.
But bear with me-- your name is the entire foundation of your business, course, blog or offer that carries the name.
It gets splashed in large, bold font across the top of many pages online for the whole world to see.
And most importantly, it's often the first impression you give to potential customers and clients.
To say your name is important is an understatement-- it's critical!!
If you mess up your name and find yourself hiring a lawyer to respond to a threatening letter, or worse, doing that AND going through a forced rebrand, it can really kill your mojo.
When your mojo and momentum isn't there, Instagram won't matter anyways.
Guys. Even lawyers believe this lie. A trademark registration does give you a lot of cool stuff, and super-duper helps out with would-be copycats + content thieves...
But if you think for a second the government is dedicating resources to police your trademark registration, think again.
They don't have the interest or money to do that. They figure if you took the time to figure out how to get a registered trademark, you'll figure out how to monitor your mark against infringers and copycats.
It's up to you to make sure no one else uses your name, and luckily, that's pretty easy to do.
For more info on how to do that, click here to attend an upcoming session of Names that Nurture: How to Pick a Bulletproof Course, Product or Business Name That Won’t Land You in Legal Trouble or Let Your Leads Down
This is the most dangerous, most expensive mistake you could possibly make.
Just because you've seen other people putting that little cute ™ next to their names, logos and taglines, don't assume you can do the same for your stuff.
I actually got a client out of a trademark infringement lawsuit because she didn't use a little ™ symbol.
She had a blog post titled something like, "The Giant Christmas Product Guide*," and this guy's lawyer sent her a letter that said she was infringing his trademark of "The Giant Christmas."
Our strategy? Ignore it.
It worked brilliantly. My advice to her was that this was not infringement because she wasn't using the name of the blog post as a trademark, and this guy was wasting his time.
BUT... if she had used "The Giant Christmas Product Guide™" or worse... "The Giant Christmas™ Product Guide," that little ™ would have been a whole lot of "TR" (trouble, ha!)
*I've changed the names to keep my client and client details anonymous.
Coca-cola tried to claim this and famously lost, despite having one of the top 10 trademarks in the world.
They then hilariously tried to sell things like stuffed-animal coke bottles and coke-branded baby pacifiers so that they could claim they were actually using the "Coca-Cola" or "Coke" names on every class of goods and services.
It proved to be too expensive and not worth their efforts.
The point is, even if you have the most famous trademark in the world, you don't get to use it on any + every thing that could possibly exist.
If "Coca-Cola Tire Rotation Center" popped up in Mobile, Alabama, I'm sure Coke could throw their weight around and get the poor tire dealer to rebrand. But legally speaking?
There's not much room for them to do this, and without that kind of fame, it would be nearly impossible for normal folks like us to stop unrelated products or services from using our name.
The truth is most lawyers-- even people who claim to be trademark lawyers-- don't understand this area of law very well.
The chances that you'd hire a great lawyer at a reasonable cost to register a trademark for you are very slim. I charge $4200 per each trademark I apply for, and most small businesses or solopreneurs have at least three recognizable trademarks.
There's a better way though-- and it starts with my upcoming workshop: Names that Nurture: How to Pick a Bulletproof Course, Product or Business Name That Won’t Land You in Legal Trouble or Let Your Leads Down.
In this free workshop, you’ll learn: