Did you know that Sarah Palin wanted to trademark her name but was not granted her wish because she forgot to sign the forms? Or that a rapper and a reality TV show host are in a battle over the word yup? Trademarking is a very serious business, which could literally make you or break you.
For example, it is believed that Michael Buffer, the man who announces boxing matches by saying ‘Let’s get ready to rumble!’ made $400 million because he trademarked this phrase. On the other hand, there is dangerous trademarking being done out there as well, such as gene trademarking. It literally means that some scientists have isolated genes from the human DNA and then trademarked them as their own. Therefore, if someone else other than them wants to research those genes for, let’s say, cancer research purposes, they can’t.
As you can well see, trademarking is not a thing to be taken lightly in any way. Therefore, let’s see what you can do to trademark your ideas and make sure no one claims them.
What Is Trademarking?
Essentially, trademarking is a way for you or your business to stand out from the crowd when it comes to your specific market sector. A trademark can be a logo or any combination of characters, numbers, letters, colors, and fonts that consumers and clients can associate with your brand.
Trademarking is crucial from a business point of view. Therefore, as a first tip, we advise that, if you have an idea, product or service you start trademarking it as soon as possible. The simple reason is marketing. If your idea, good or service becomes famous and wanted, others might start using it commercially. Since you have not claimed that item from a legal point of view, it means that you cannot ask them to pay you royalties.
In other words, you will be standing by, watching how others make money out of something you thought of first. Take Coca Cola’s example. They are one of the, if not the most famous brand in the world. Therefore, they trademarked everything that has to do with their business. Starting with the beverage itself, their name, logo, colors, font, and ending with the hourglass shape of the bottle. Absolutely every detail is trademarked. Yes, even their main advertising message, which is ‘Always Coca Cola.’
Let’s Talk Trademarking
The first thing you need to know about trademarking is that you can go register your ideas with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However, you need to be very careful, especially if you want to trademark a logo. The Office will accept not all of them. Nor your designs, if they fall into the following categories.
- If they are illegal, meaning that they depict, hint to or try to sell drugs or something in those lines.
- The logo or design should not, in any way, describe the quality, quantity, value, purpose, or geographical place where the goods came from.
- If what you are trying to register is now customary as far as your line of trade is concerned.
- The logo is not distinctive at all.
- If it is offensive.
- The logo or design is deceptive, meaning they promote a particular type of item or good and then fail to deliver it.
Apart from all these conditions, you cannot, under any circumstances, trademark the following.
- Coats of arms or armorial bearings;
- State emblems as well as flags;
- Official signs;
- The names and their abbreviations of inter-governmental unions and organizations.;
Here is the second main thing you must remember, so that you can make an informed decision about trademarking your ideas or not. The United States Patent and Trademark Office itself states that one does not necessarily need to trademark a business or a business idea. You can also use the TM symbol because it will protect your intellectual property just as well.
However, when it comes to legal issues, it will, indeed, be a lot easier to prove your case in court if you have trademarked your property. Therefore, let’s see what you need to do to start trademarking.
4 Steps to Ideal Trademarking
You will be surprised to find out just how easy and straightforward the process really is. Here are the steps you need to take.
1. Search the Office’s Database and Make Sure Your Idea Is Still Available
This is a crucial step. Remember there are many people out there with lots of ideas and products they put up for trademarking. You need to do your research.
For the Patent Office to give you a trademark on your idea, it has to be unique. If they can find one which is similar to yours, you will not receive your trademark.
2. Present Your Idea
The United States Patent and Trademark Office requires each applicant to submit an actual physical drawing of the idea which they are trying to patent or trademark. And, since a trademark usually consists of a logo, design, image or a cluster of words, it should be easy for you to draft and present it.
When you do, a representative of the Office will search the database. They want to make sure that not only is your idea unique, but so is the way it looks like. If all is in order, the representative will then enter it into the database with the other ones. In this way, it will remain unique, and you can rest assured no one else is ever going to produce one like yours.
3. You Must Determine What Basis You Are Trademarking
Here is another requirement the Office will have for you. You need to state why you are asking for a trademark. Is it for ‘use in commerce’ or for ‘intent to use?’ The first reason is for when you already have a business in motion, while the latter is for when you plan on using the idea, logo or design after you have filed your application.
4. Go to the Trademark Electronic Application System and Submit Your Application
This is the way the Office prefers it, and it is best you keep within their guidelines, to ensure maximum success. When you access the electronic application system, you will see that there are two distinct application forms. They both require you to fill in personal information, as well as some details about your trademark. You will also have to pay a fee.
There you have it. Here’s how simple it is to apply for and start the trademarking process. As a last tip, you should make sure that the item or idea you are trying to trademark is a serious and usable thing. If not, you risk ending up like the following people.
The Funniest Trademark Claims, Successes, and Failures
You will not believe what some people have tried to trademark over the years. Some have succeeded, some have, evidently, failed, while even more have become the laughing stock of the entire world. Here are a few examples which you can use as an inspiration of what not to do with your ideas or business.
As incredible as it may seem, Apple owns the trademark for the rectangle with the round shapes. Therefore, yes, the shape of your credit card is the property of the tech giant.
2. Reese’s Pieces
Reese’s Pieces owns a certain shade of orange. It might sound crazy, but they actually trademarked a color over there. And they are pretty adamant about it. So adamant, in fact, that they challenged Dove’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Promises because the color and packaging they used are too similar to Reese’s.
In 1993, a man by the name of James Korn tried to trademark the name ‘Titanic.’ His reason was that he was wearing it on his T-Shirt a long time before James Cameron and the movie came out. However, he was unsuccessful. First of all, because there was another company who called R.M.S. Titanic who dove to retrieve artifacts from the ship and which used to sport its name. And, second of all, he lost his claim because the court ruled that Titanic is a name which belongs to history and which cannot be subjected to trademarking.
4. Daily Words and Names
- Some of the words which we use on an almost daily basis and which we believe to be common nouns are, in fact, trademarks. Some examples include Bubble Wrap, Jet Ski, Chapstick, Ping Pong, Popsicle, Velcro, Realtor, Rollerblade, Super Hero, Vaseline, Onesies. Yes, even the term super hero, which we nowadays use so much is not a common noun at all. It was invented and, thusly owned, by the DC Comics Partnership and Marvel Characters, Inc.
- Beyonce and Jay Z tried to trademark their daughter’s name, Blue Ivy. They claim that people wanted to make different products and start selling them under that name for a better market recognition. However, they were unsuccessful. A woman had already started a wedding planning company under that name back in 2009.
There are a series of countries in the world, China included, which simply don’t care about trademarking laws. That’s why they have brands such as Dolce & Banana, Michaelsoft Binbows, Mike, as opposed to Nike, Specialman instead of Superman, Google – The Fashion Galary, spelled exactly like this, Burger Madam & Sir, instead of Burger King, Master Beef and not MasterCard, Sunbucks Coffee, PolyStation, iPhone shoes, Internet Explorer sunscreen, and many more.
To the Name
Trademarking can be a funny business at times, but that doesn’t mean it’s less serious when it comes to marketing and legal issues. Therefore, if you believe you have an awesome idea or product in the pipeline, let the trademarking bonanza begin!
Images from depositphotos.com.