Friday, June 22, 2012

Wants to Use a 'Maker' Mark

Dear Rich: We are planning on starting a web-based company for 3D design printing and we will be using the term "Maker"and another word in the name. As it happens, there already exists a hardware company who makes personal 3D printers that uses the term "Maker"(with another word) in their name. That company did not create the idea of the 'Maker,' for 3D printing but they obviously capitalize on its connotations. What precautions should we take to avoid any potential infringements or legal issues? If you're considering a name that is similar to an existing name for similar goods and services, then you should either (a) consult with a trademark attorney for a legal opinion as to whether it's infringing, (b) go ahead and use it and see if the company cares (or if they do, whether they'll actually sue), or (c) do as much research as you can and make an educated guess as to whether it's safe to proceed. (Considering that "Maker" and "Make," are now synonymous with gadget hacking and DIY projects, then what better DIY project to pursue than the last option, right?)
Research, research, research. Dozens of companies use "Maker" as their mark (and let's not forget "Maker's Mark"). What matters is whether your name is likely to confuse consumers of the 3D printing company ( or any other similar-named company within your industry). So, you will need to familiarize yourself with standards of "likelihood of confusion." Then, you need to do a trademark search. Fortunately, we're here to help with a handy video explanation of how to do that. (By the way, besides searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you can also search at Trademarkia.) When searching, search within in connection with your goods or services using the single term "maker," and then again using the compound of "maker" plus whatever second term you are planning on using preceding or following "maker."
Feel good? Register. If you feel confident about moving ahead, you may want to federally register the trademark as that creates a presumptive right to your use. You can learn registrations basics and also how to deal with any objections after you submit your application to the  USPTO.