Has your blog taken off faster than you expected? Do you have a unique brand you would like to protect? It is not enough to simply rely on your domain name. You may need to trademark your blog to protect your logo and any goods and services you provide that use your logo.
What is a trademark?
A trademark will protect your brand from use by others in your specific business area. For example, a trademark will protect your logo in the blog community from use by another blogger. If someone else online began to use your logo to sell goods online, you, as the trademark holder, would be able to legally stop them. You can trademark a phrase, a specific logo, or even a sound.
Let’s say you knit hats for your cat, Herman. Your friends keep asking you to knit hats for their cats too, and sensing the popularity of cat hats, you decide to start a blog showing how to make them. Your blog, Kitty’s Cat Hats, is so popular you start selling your cat hats to your readers. You created a logo with Herman’s picture in it and a super cool cat-themed font. Suddenly, one of your readers tells you that a copycat blog, Katy’s Cat Hats, has started up and is encroaching on your readership and potential business. If you trademark your blog name and logo, then you may be able to stop Katy from trying to sell her cat hats under her too-similar name.
Should I trademark my blog?
You must decide whether your blog is unique enough to warrant a trademark, and if you think it is, whether a trademark is even available. Maybe Kitty’s Cat Hats will be the first of its kind to register for a trademark. If that’s the case, hooray! You probably won’t have trouble being considered unique. But what if Katy’s Cat Hats is already registered? Maybe your trademark is not unique enough. You can figure out what similar trademarks are already registered by searching online, which is discussed in more detail below.
Cost is another consideration in deciding whether to trademark your blog. The fee for filing the paperwork with the USPTO, www.uspto.gov, the federal agency that issues trademarks, is, at minimum, $275. And if you make a mistake in your filing, you lose that money. For that reason, you may want to hire a trademark attorney to file the paperwork for you. Some attorneys will file trademarks for a flat rate. Their services may include searching for competing trademarks, filing the paperwork, and even addressing any objections from the USPTO. Once you’ve been granted a trademark, however, the enforcement of it is up to you. Legal enforcement may require you to hire a lawyer or go to court, which also costs more money. Yet, the advantage is that someone else is not making money off of your brand.
How to trademark your blog
1. Choose your “mark.”
This may be your blog name and/or your stylized logo. You must figure out if you can actually register your mark and also carefully consider whether your mark is strong enough to be enforceable. Since Herman is the most adorable cat ever, and yours is the only font that incorporates both paw prints and whiskers, there is no competition for similar logos.
2. Describe your goods and/or services.
You must also be able to describe the exact goods or services that you provide under the mark, and whether you have actually been providing those goods or services already or whether you intend to in the future. In your case, you’ve been selling knit cat hats for a long time, so you’ve already been providing those goods in commerce.
3. Figure out if your blog or logo has already been trademarked.
The USPTO offers an online database and tips on how to search the database correctly. http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics/searching-marks-uspto-database The search must be comprehensive and may be complicated for a layperson to figure out, which is another reason you may want to hire a trademark attorney. Did Katy’s Cat Hats beat you to the punch?
4. Prepare and submit your application.
Once you have done all of these steps, you are ready to prepare and submit your application to the USPTO. The USPTO requires that you check the status of your application every 3-4 months to keep track of any additional filing deadlines. A USPTO attorney will be assigned to your application and will communicate with you if your application contains errors or there are any reasons for its refusal. It is crucial to maintain contact with the USPTO throughout the process or else your application may be considered abandoned.
The fun doesn’t stop there! After the USPTO has reviewed your application and decided that there are no barriers to trademarking Kitty’s Cat Hats, they will publish the mark in their “Official Gazette.” If anyone feels like your mark will somehow encroach upon their own, they must give notice to the USPTO within 30 days. But if no one opposes, then – after a few more procedural hurdles and deadlines – the USPTO will issue a registration for your mark. In response, you must file a few more documents to keep your registration “live,” or else the USPTO will cancel your registration. After all of this, you will be officially trademarked in the US. Did we mention that it might be a good idea to hire a trademark attorney?