Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Of Blogs and Trademarks ...

In a post-Eastwooding world, all empty chairs have meaning
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 trademark 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? Sorry to slow things down but we have an obligation to remind readers that "trademark" is not a verb, so there is no such thing as "trademarking" a name. (We think you are referring to the registration of a trademark with the USPTO.)

  1. To qualify for a registration, a trademark owner must be engaged in commerce regulated by the U.S. government. You can satisfy this requirement if you are writing the blog to attract clients, offer or advertise for services, or if you are leveraging the blog for income, for example, from Google Ads or affiliate programs. Note: this registration will only guarantee protection for use of the mark with your blog. Once you begin consulting services, you may want to file a separate application for those services. 
  2. Yes, you can establish a trademark even if you don’t have an official business registration (that is, you haven’t filed a DBA, or created an LLC or corporation). You can always transfer the ownership and registration from your sole proprietorship to another entity. 
  3. You should file an application for the name that consumers associate with your business. Usually that doesn't include the generic top level domain extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.). If you do seek to register the full domain name you will most likely have to disclaim the extension. (We discussed disclaimers in a previous post.) With a federal registration, you can stop others who use the domain name in bad faith 
  4. Each mark should be the subject of a separate application. No, you don’t need to register related trademarks at the same time. Note: you must pay the fee (approximately $300) for each class of goods or services for which you want protection.

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