When good friends Michael and Barry asked if I’d be interested in contributing to the KnowEm blog, I jumped at the chance. My company, CorpNet®, has been a happy KnowEm customer since last year. Like KnowEm, I strongly believe that companies should protect their most valuable assets: their identity, brand, and reputation. And like KnowEm, I believe in making this task dead simple, for companies of all sizes.
Maybe you’re just starting your business. Maybe you’ve been running a successful business for years, but administrative details always seem to take a back seat to hustling for clients, improving your product, rolling out a new service, etc. But when it comes to your business name and trademarks, a few proactive steps can go a long way toward protecting your brand and business. Best of all, it’s easy and affordable — you just need to know where to start…
Make sure your name is available…Conduct a FREE Name Search!
You’ve brainstormed for days; you’ve polled all your family and friends; and you’ve finally settled on a fantastic name for your company or new product/service. Before diving in head first, you need to make sure that the name is actually available for use. First in the state where you are planning to conduct business and then nationwide to make sure no one else is using the same name in any other state. I don’t mean to use scare tactics here, but trust me – you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a trademark dispute. Beyond punitive damages and killer legal fees, you can be ordered to rename your company/product immediately. And all the money, time, and effort you invested building the brand will be wiped out, in an instant.
Additionally, if you try registering a trademark that is similar to an existing mark, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will reject your application straight away — and forget about asking for a refund for your application fee.
So, please avoid these sticky situations and make sure you’re legally permitted to use a name from the start. There are a few ways to do this:
- Start by conducting a FREE Name Search at CorpNet to make sure your company name is available in the state you plan on setting up the business..or filing your DBA, Corporation, or LLC.
- Next, conduct a FREE Trademark Search to see if your name is available for use at the Federal level. KnowEm offers a free search tool and this is a great place to start to see if your name would be available for use nationwide.
- Next, take your search to the next level with a Comprehensive Nationwide Trademark Search. CorpNet®, can conduct your Comprehensive Trademark search quickly and affordably giving you search results that include both the US Federal and State trademark databases. We also check common law databases and county registrars so you’ll know that your name won’t be infringing on someone else’s property even if they haven’t registered it with the USPTO or their registration is pending. We will check the domain names registrars to make sure no one has taken the domain either. CorpNet’s Comprehensive Trademark Search starts from just $199 and KnowEm members are eligible for a discount of $20 towards this service.
It’s important to know that you can infringe on someone else’s mark, even if they’ve never formally registered it with the USPTO. For this reason, a comprehensive trademark search into state, local, and county databases is critical.
Protect your Assets… Incorporate or Form an LLC!
If you haven’t done so already, you may want to consider incorporating or forming an LLC. I won’t get into all the details here (if interested, you can read about some of the benefits of incorporation here). Keep in mind it’s best to incorporate before registering your trademark to place your trademark under the umbrella of the corporation or LLC.
Register your trademark
You’re not actually required by law to register a trademark. Use of a name instantly gives you common law rights as an owner, even without formal registration. However, you should consider registering your trademark for proper legal protection — after all, you’ve spent untold hours deliberating on the ideal name, and you’ll be spending even more cultivating brand recognition. Registering with the USPTO is a relatively easy process. Expect to pay approximately $325 per class in application fees that your mark would fall under (that’s for filing directly online; it’s approximately $375 per class for paper filings). The process can take anywhere from 9-12 months once your application is submitted.
So why register? Trademarks and brand names have value; they can be sold as corporate assets. But most importantly, trademarks registered with the USPTO enjoy significantly stronger protection than “common law” (unregistered) marks. Since we registered the mark CorpNet, it was exponentially easier to recover CorpNet on Twitter, CorpNet on Facebook, and CorpNet on YouTube. Likewise, if someone had been using the CorpNet domain (or a close variation), it would be much easier for us to recover those properties as well. In the long run, we saved a ton on the legal fees associated with getting injunctions — and all because we registered the trademark.
Your trademarks represent your brand, reputation, and business. Don’t wait too long to protect yours.
Nellie Akalp is the CEO & Co-Founder of CorpNet, Incorporated, her second incorporation filing service company based on the simple philosophy of truth in business and her strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in getting their business off the ground in a fast, reliable, and affordable manner.