Monday, January 4, 2010

Will Online Registration Services Steal My Trademark?

Dear Rich: I would like to register a trademark, but how can I be sure that someone from the site won't steal my business idea? Are online registration services trustworthy? Aside from Nolo's trademark registration service (Insert FTC Disclaimer here), we cannot attest to other online site's trustworthiness (although they would have difficulty staying in business if they ripped off customers). In any case, as helpful as these services may be, you can probably bypass them and file directly at the USPTO website without much hassle. The Dear Rich Staff believes that you can trust the USPTO (and if you have doubts about trusting government agencies, you're best off not going into business at all). Some other things to keep in mind:
  • Unless your business idea consists solely of the name or logo (we're talking "Pet Rock"), there's not much to be "stolen" from a trademark registration. In any case, within days of your application filing, the information in the application will appear at the USPTO website where the public can see it. 
  • Business success requires more than trademark creativity. Even if your trademark application discloses a very creative trademark/product combination, it's rare that a creative trademark, by itself, guarantees success. You need marketable products and services, and usually, you must invest lots of effort and money into marketing those goods and services in order to popularize the mark.
  • Use it or lose it. Finally, in case you're unaware, the Dear Rich Staff advises that you won't acquire a federal registration unless you use the mark in commerce. (And if you're already using it in commerce, then the public would already be aware of your business idea.)