Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Should I Register My Blog Name (or Domain Name)?

Dear Rich: I am planning on starting a blog that I might ultimately turn into a consulting/market research business (though in the beginning, like most bloggers, I will be providing only free articles and research). Since I might ultimately end up doing commerce under my domain name, and since I think the name is nifty and special, I am thinking of trademarking it right away. This raises a few questions: (1) If I am not actually selling anything yet, but merely advertising services or providing free online research services, is that enough for a full trademark, or merely an intent-to-use trademark? (2) Can I establish a trademark even if I don’t have an official business registration? Might this create any problems later on if I want to transfer the trademark from my personal name to that of the business? (3) Should I register the name of the domain or that of the business? If they are the same, does registering for one protect the other? (4) I have the business name and the domain, but I do not yet have a logo. Can I trademark them separately, or should I wait to trademark them all together? Wow, that's a lot of questions. Excuse us while we re-insert our caffeine drip. Answering your questions by number: (1) Yes, offering information is a service; you don't have to make traditional sales to be "in commerce." (2) We're not sure what you mean by "business registration" (we assume you haven't filed a DBA or incorporated or formed an LLC). In any case, it doesn't matter; individuals can register marks. It's easy to transfer from one entity to another, just be sure to notify the USPTO of the assignment. (3) You should register the term that best identifies your services to the public -- which is typically the name of the blog. (Check out our entry about registering blog titles as trademarks.) (4) You should register the blog name or words in standard character format. We don't think there's much sense in registering a stylized version of the name -- especially because you may later change the appearance.  If you have a unique logo that differs from your name, you can register that but that should be a low business priority, at least until the online business is doing well enough to justify the $300+ registration fee.  Here's more info on registering trademarks.