When launching a new business, one of your first priorities should be to secure the appropriate legal protection for your company’s intellectual property (IP). Depending on the type of IP involved, this can require securing patents, trademarks, and/or copyrights.
Among the very first IP elements you’ll want to protect is your company’s brand name and logo. This is done by registering for trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Since you’re just getting your company up and running, you probably won’t have a huge budget to spend on protecting your IP, so you’ll most likely want to find a reasonably priced trademark registration service. But with so many different trademark services out there, it can be challenging to tell the legit operations from the not-so-legit. And as with all types of DIY legal services you find online, you should approach web-based trademark registration services with extreme caution.
In this two-part series, we’ll discuss four warning signs to watch for when choosing a trademark registration service. Although we recommend that you always work with an experienced business lawyer like us to register your company’s trademarks and other IP protections, if you do choose to take the DIY route, this series outlines a few of the red flags you should watch for.
Last week in part one, we discussed why you should be wary of trademark registration services with extremely low prices, and how such services often fail to offer you any real value. Here, we’ll look at some terminology that’s commonly used to market trademark registration services, and how such slogans may sound enticing on the surface, but actually be deceptive and signal that the company is less-than trustworthy.
Warning Sign #2: “Get Your Trademark Today” “File In Only 10 Minutes”
As we mentioned last week, the entire process to register your trademark often takes many months and sometimes over a year to complete. So if you see a service promising to trademark your brand in mere minutes or even that same day, that’s a big red flag.
In those cases, what you are paying for is likely just an automated filing company that takes the information you supplied in the online application, formats it to fit the USPTO registration form, and then files it on your behalf. What they fail to mention is that by filing your mark in such an expedited manner, they are failing to provide you with several of the most important steps in the trademark registration process.
For example, using such services it’s highly unlikely that anyone is conducting the necessary searches to make certain that the brand or mark you’re filing would even qualify to be registered. Moreover, it’s almost certain that no one is taking the time to determine if your trademark would effectively protect the particular goods or services you provide.
Sure, it’s possible that your application is being filed in such a short period of time, but if that’s all you’re getting for your money, you could have almost as easily as done that on your own without any assistance using the USPTO website.
To maximize the chances of your application being approved, you need the support of an attorney with experience in intellectual property law. He or she can analyze the specific needs of your business, evaluate whether or not your chosen brand is suitable to be registered, and then properly draft your application with enough accuracy to survive the scrutiny of the USPTO at every stage of the process. And this is something that simply cannot be done in just a matter of minutes.
Warning Sign #3: “100% Money Back Guarantee” “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed”
Although offering you a “guarantee” may sound attractive, these slogans are actually nothing more than empty words. Such terminology is employed to take advantage of your lack of education about how the trademarking process works to make you think they’re offering you a more comprehensive service than what they actually provide.
Once again, the vast majority of companies that use such phrases are merely auto-filling your trademark application and filing it on your behalf—and nothing more. Once your application is filed, they’ve fulfilled their obligation to you.
In other words, these companies are merely guaranteeing that they will “file” your trademark application, not promising your application will get approved. Unless the online service you are using somehow fails to file your application with the USPTO, good luck getting your money back.
Indeed, no one can actually guarantee that your trademark will be approved. Some online trademark registration services will offer what’s known as a “re-filing guarantee.” But all that means is that if your trademark application is rejected, you are able to file another application with the company, sometimes at a discount.
Yet no matter how many times they allow you to refile, unless you have an attorney shepherding your application through the entire process, the chances of your application getting approved are quite low.
Warning Sign #4: “Attorney-Reviewed” “Attorney-Led” “Attorney-Supported”
It’s common sense that having an attorney’s guidance when registering your trademark is better than doing it all on your own. To this end, some trademark services will use these phrases to reassure you that there will, in fact, be an attorney involved in your trademark application process.
While such services will most likely be more extensive—and maybe even slightly more successful—than those that simply auto-file your application, unless you actually have an attorney of record representing you in the entire process, you are not getting the legal support you need.
When using such services, an attorney will typically review your application, and one may even consult with you about your application. But outside a minimal level of assistance on the front end, you are going to be all on your own once your application is filed—which includes the vast majority of the process.
Without an attorney of record representing you, you must keep track of all the deadlines, respond to all office actions, and manage all oppositions and cancellations completely by yourself. And since you aren’t qualified to handle these often tasks on your own, you’d be forced to pay a lawyer $300-$500 an hour—on top of what you already shelled out—to fix your application if any issues arise.
Instead, you’d be much better off by simply hiring an experienced trademark lawyer from the very start, rather than rolling the dice with such bare-bones online services and hoping your application doesn’t hit any snags.
Services that go beyond just registration
To save yourself the time, money, and hassle, we recommend you always work with an experienced lawyer to support and advise you throughout the registration process. That said, if you do decide to take the DIY route, at least now you know some of the warning signs to watch for, so you can hopefully reduce your chances of getting scammed.
Finally, when it comes to protecting your company’s intellectual property, filing for trademarks and copyrights are just the start. Once you have these protections in place, you’ll need to take additional steps to ensure your trademarks and copyrights aren’t infringed upon—and that’s something you’ll need a lawyer’s help with, as well.
With us as your Family Business Lawyer™, we can not only support and advise you step-by-step through the process of registering your brand, we can also help you enforce your ownership rights should your IP ever be infringed upon. Contact us today to get started.
This article is a service of Erin Williams, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule. 720-312-1874