When we think of building a business, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of product creation, marketing, and all the fun stuff that surrounds a launch.
But we can’t forget about some fundamentals of entrepreneurship that can save us a lot of time, stress, and money in the long run. We’re talking about things like bookkeeping, legal matters, and yes, trademarking your business ideas along your journey.
Trademarking is still a relevant practice in the 2020s, and something you should definitely not overlook. It’s the ultimate “better safe than sorry” thing to do!
Let’s talk about all the reasons why trademarking matters nowadays more than ever, and offer some practical tips to trademark your intellectual property the right way.
Legal and Practical Purposes
First things first: trademarking your business ideas is simply the smart thing to do, whether you’re creating products, logos, catchphrases, or any other IP assets that you want to keep for the long haul ahead.
“Think about the bare-bones essentials of your business and what makes it valuable, and you’ll instantly see why trademarks are so vital to your venture,” said Corey Ashton Walters, Founder and CEO of Here. “The office, the computers, the staff, even the money – those things can be replaced. The ideas that form the foundation of your company cannot be replaced, so protect them now and save yourself that hassle later on.”
It doesn’t matter whether you’re aiming to create the next software empire or just starting a solo effort in publishing or content creation – trademarking is important no matter the context.
“This is one of those few things in business that is truly universal,” said Ryan Lee, Co-Founder and CEO of Rooted. “Intellectual property is the essence of any venture, regardless of what you’re selling or how you make money. It may seem boring to deal with – and it is – but it’s worth it just for the peace of mind you get.”
As some entrepreneurs point out, there is a stigma that may come with trademarking, especially in creative circles. Like always, don’t let others know how to conduct your business – only you know what’s best for you!
“I was once told I am being arrogant as an author just because I legally protect my books by copyrighting them and trademarking my titles and names,” said Kailin Gow, Author and Influencer. “That’s not being arrogant. It’s about being smart. I went to law school, and I’m married to a lawyer. It’s ingrained in me to protect what is mine, even if it is perceived as arrogant. I’d rather be arrogant than stupid.”
There will always be someone naysaying your choices anyway, so it’s often best to stick to your original game plan and follow through with precision.
Marketing, Brand Awareness, and More
Beyond the basics of legal protection and intellectual property rights, trademarking has a few hidden benefits that may not be so obvious to first-time business owners.
As many long-time entrepreneurs point out, trademarking can actually help your brand get a stronger foothold in your industry and fuel some positive momentum in those challenging early stages.
“Business trademarks are beneficial for companies who invest time in developing a strong identity within their industry,” said Hayley Albright, Senior Brand and Customer Experience Manager at Xena Workwear. “A strong brand identity will increase the valuation of your business and will leave a lasting impression with customers while differentiating you from competitors. This customer relationship will help to secure your intellectual property. Products and technology can be copied or stolen, but unique brand identity is much harder to replicate.”
It doesn’t take an MBA to realize that any type of brand reinforcement is crucial when starting out, and a trademark can help do just that.
Furthermore, the public will start to associate your brand with certain imagery and language when you trademark early on. It’s a natural human response that we’ve developed over time as a result of living in the modern world – trademarks equal legitimate business.
“Trademarking your business raises brand awareness,” said Jean Gregoire, Founder and CEO of Lovebox. “It makes it easy for your customers to find you and helps distinguish you from your competitors. It’s also a great communication tool. The name of your business should tie into your brand, values, or mission as a company. It’s the first impression your customers have of you and your product.”
Looking to the future of your company, it’s also important to consider how trademarks will create a common thread. There will inevitably come a time when your business will be slated to expand, scale, or reorganize in some more drastic way.
“A smart trademarking strategy goes beyond marketing and helps you envision a bigger, brighter future for your company on every level,” said Shaunak Amin, CEO and Co-Founder of SnackMagic. “You can start to map out the next steps before they happen, and a master plan begins to unfold before your eyes. It also helps you identify possible dead ends and steer clear of problems as they emerge.”
Start thinking about trademarks not just as a savvy legal practice, but as a legitimate boost for your business in every regard.
Trademarking in the Internet Age
While the rise of the internet and social media has made the business world more accessible for all, the necessity for trademarking has also become more prominent.
The possibilities offered by ecommerce and content creation are limitless, but your ideas must be protected if you’re venturing into the arena of online business – of any kind.
“The likelihood of fraudulent activity or issues with IP are more of a problem than we realize in the current web landscape,” said Jason Boehle, CEO of QuaGrowth. “I have personally seen disputes play out that cost people precious money and time when they should be focused on positive pursuits. Just trademark properly and avoid those problems altogether.”
When it comes to a close-quarters environment like social media, we can see more clearly why trademarking is the smart thing to do.
“On platforms like Facebook and Instagram, brands are popping up all the time, and that comes with real concerns for intellectual property,” said Inesa Ponomariovaite, Founder of Nesa’s Hemp. “By trademarking your materials from the start, you can avoid the clashes that happen on social media and navigate around legal issues that can disrupt your entire business. Moreover, you can be confident in using social media the right way and have a clean conscience.”
From the perspective of customers and potential business partners, a trademark strategy will also help separate your brand from the pack and give you a helpful reputation boost from square one.
“You instantly earn a major leg-up by trademarking your business IP, especially in the wild-west arena of ecommerce,” said Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie. “Other companies will take you more seriously and want to work with you. Customers will put aside concerns about scams and whatnot. Plus, you’ll have an easier time standing out on social media and search.”
We are very accustomed to doing business on the web, but we can’t forget that trust must be earned on the internet. Trademarking helps establish that trust in a real way.
Practical Trademarking Tips
Ready to get serious about trademarking and set your business plans into motion? It all starts by knowing the basics of trademarking in the modern era, which are easier to grasp than you might think.
“The best way to protect a trademark is to register it,” said Dan Wernikoff, CEO of LegalZoom. “Such registration must comply with the particular requirements that vary from state to state. The drawback is that state registration only protects the mark in that state. Nationwide protection is offered by registering phrases with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Regardless of whether the trademark is for a phrase, logo, or something else, the same procedure is involved in registering a trademark.”
Don’t get ahead of yourself when it comes to trademarks, however. You want to have your ideas fully formed and a clear vision of your business before you sign any dotted lines.
“We all want to hit the fast-forward button on every aspect of our business, including copyright and trademark stuff,” said Michael Jankie, Founder and CEO of The Natural Patch Co. “The problem is that we sometimes jump the gun and trademark ideas before they’re fully baked and realized. It’s okay to let things marinate and bring the full vision to life when the time is right. That way, you have complete confidence in your trademarks and can proceed in a more measured way.”
While most trademark processes are smooth and pain-free, there may be roadblocks in your way. In this case, have a backup plan and think about alternatives that make sense for your company.
“It’s not always a quick and easy experience, and you need to be prepared to take a detour or reconsider some of your ideas,” said Lindsay McCormick, Founder and CEO of Bite. “This will test your real-time flexibility and prepare you for more obstacles ahead.”
It may not be the most thrilling topic in the business world, but trademarking is an absolute must if you want to start your company on the right foot.