When you enter the world of entrepreneurship, you take on a level of risk that doesn’t exist as an employee. If you work for someone else’s company, those leaders hold the ultimate responsibility for legal mistakes that can cost huge chunks of change.
But when you work for yourself, you’re the one who has to manage your intellectual property and make sure it’s not stolen. This means you’re the one in charge of registering a company trademark.
This is a big deal if you’re an online entrepreneur whose value isn’t attached to a physical business that involves material possessions. When your work is primarily digital, you have to take the extra step of defining your boundaries so that others don’t intentionally (or accidentally) steal your ideas and creativity.
This might sound like a strange concern to bring up. You might be wondering, “How can someone steal a thought or idea?” The fact is that for centuries, successful businesses have been running on specific thoughts and compelling ideas that are protected by trademarks.
So you might not be making money off of physical property (i.e. cars, gym equipment, or a physical experience), but you are selling your intellectual property — the assets created from your unique mind.
Simply put, registering a trademark is the way. But of course, we won’t make you figure it all out on your own. Let’s dive in together! 👇
What Is a Company Trademark?
🤓 Welcome to trademarking 101! A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes one party’s identity and services from another. It’s what helps us distinguish Dove Chocolate from Dove, the soap brand.
Certain trademarks apply specifically to online coaches and service providers, while others apply to businesses of all kinds.
Businesses Use These Trademarks
- Business name
- Instagram handle
- Business tagline
- Campaign slogan
- Name of signature formula or method
Online Businesses Use These Trademarks:
- Name of a signature service (e.g. intensive, VIP day, or 1:1 consulting)
- Online course name
- Ebook title
- Name of a digital product or product series
- Nickname used to address community members
- Podcast name
Coaching Businesses Use These Trademarks:
- Name of a 1:1 or group coaching program
- Name of a mastermind community
- Acronym taught in a coaching program
Any and all of these are potential assets that help you grow a high-earning and long-lasting business. To make the most of your assets, you’ll want to secure *exclusive rights* to them through trademarking.
Do I Need to Run a Large Company to Use a Trademark?
Good news: It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is to benefit from a trademark. You don’t need a huge team, and you don’t even need to be earning any money yet.
Registering a trademark is a great step to take before you launch your business or when you’re already selling products, serving clients, or building your online brand.
Whether you’re ahead of schedule, or you’ve been making money without having your legal ducks in a row, no worries. We’re here to help you understand how trademarks are used and why they’re important for the existence (and growth!) of your business.
How Does Online Entrepreneurship Get Complicated Without Trademarks?
Trademarks serve as a way to keep individuals and businesses accountable for the way they earn money and build an audience. Without trademarks, it would be hard to claim “this idea was mine first,” when both you and another Instagram account have been talking about the same topics (in the same exact way) for the past three months.
It’s not like you can take your idea and keep it in your home office, claiming it as your own. As opposed to a brick-and-mortar business that rents a physical space, fully stocked with valuable equipment…there’s no physical representation of your intellectual property as an online entrepreneur.
You vs. Brand A
For instance, let’s say this month you decide to start promoting your coaching program with a specific name, logo, and tagline. All of this intellectual property is contained in your website, but you haven’t taken the step to register these various trademarks.
Now let’s say in a few weeks you stumble upon a website (created by Brand A) that’s full of the same verbiage, logo, and coaching program name as you. What do you do? Well, there’s not much you can do without a trademark.
You might think it’s unfair that Brand A is building their audience and making good money with the ideas you thought of — and we totally feel you!
But there’s no proof that you thought of those ideas first. Unfortunately, without a registered trademark, you don’t have exclusive rights to the verbiage, logo, and coaching program that Brand A is using.
Not only does this cause frustration, but you’ll have to spend time, energy, and money on rebranding, so that you don’t infringe on Brand A’s trademarks, which they registered before you had the chance.
In hindsight, it would have been simpler to invest in trademarks from the start, so you could maintain the momentum of your branding and marketing efforts.
What Makes a Company Trademark Effective?
Because it costs a couple hundred dollars to register a trademark, you want to make sure it’s worth it. If a particular name, logo, slogan, or methodology isn’t going to continually benefit your brand, then you should rethink what you are going to register.
Think through these questions before making it official:
- Which pieces of intellectual property most contribute to my business’s unique selling points?
- What makes my products or services stand out from the crowd?
- How will my trademark contribute to my uniqueness?
We want to steer you away from trademarking something that isn’t going to help you grow your business. We also want to save you the trouble of trademarking something that isn’t at risk of being used by someone else. For example, if your business name includes your first name, last name, and a part of your niche, it’s highly unlikely that someone else is going to try to profit off of that exact business name.
On the other hand, if the name you’re going for is both generic and clever enough that other businesses might think of it on their own, then go ahead and register the trademark before they do.
How Do I Register My Company Trademark?
Your go-to resource for registering your company trademark is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When you use their online Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), you can get the ball rolling without hiring an attorney.
Applying for your trademark doesn’t take long at all, but the entire registration process takes about nine to ten months. This means if you apply in July, the USPTO may not review your application until May of the following year.
At that point the USPTO makes you trademark valid, and you are fully protected!
Here’s the catch — just because it takes months for your application to go through, it doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive about protecting your intellectual property.
As long as no one else has already registered the trademark you wish to use, you can (and should) go ahead and publicly use your symbol, logo, name, etc.
Just know that while you’re using it, it won’t be legally protected until you receive notice from the USPTO that your trademark was successfully registered.
What Do I Do After Registering My Trademark?
A trademark only matters if you implement it once it’s registered.
Here’s a little refresher as to why you created a company trademark in the first place:
- Ensure that others are aware of your use of your trademark
- Avoid accidental infringement on another company’s trademark
- Give yourself exclusive rights to use your trademark in connection with your services, programs, or digital products
To benefit from your trademark, you must be ready to use it.
Is it the name of your podcast? Keep building your podcast.
The tagline you place at the end of your blog posts? Keep adding it to your blog posts.
Is it your logo? Don’t replace it with a new logo any time soon.
For the trademark registration to be worth it, you should keep using the trademark to boost your online presence over time. Want to know another way to make your trademark worthwhile? Don’t be afraid of enforcing your trademark when another business infringes on it.
Here’s what we mean: When you find someone who is using your trademark in their logo, offer name, business name, or overall marketing strategy, you have the legal right to begin a conversation with them. The point of this conversation is to bring the infringement to their attention, so that do not use your trademark ever again.
If you clearly communicate this trademark infringement issue, but they don’t agree to stop using said trademark, things can get complicated. 🥴
However, under the assumption that they cooperate with you, you’re able to see the power of your trademark in a real life circumstance!
What We Covered
Would you be upset if you woke up tomorrow to see another coach in your industry using the same program name as yours?
Or if tomorrow you received an email from someone saying that they own the registration to your program name? AND that they’re demanding you stop using it immediately.
Yeah… not a good look. But it’s all avoidable!
If you’re an online coach or service provider, there is no better time than now to begin the process of registering your company trademark. Between your business name, offer name, logo, slogan, and signature methodology…there are tons of business assets that need protection.
By officially registering a trademark with the USPTO, you can protect your intellectual property and give yourself peace of mind as you grow your awesome business!
Ready to legally protect your business on all levels? Check out our ready-to-use, lawyer-approved, plug-and-play legal templates, so you can upgrade your contracts and policies while staying Protected & Profitable™ ✨
*The information presented in this blog post is for educational & informational purposes only. This should not be a substitute for customized legal advice from a licensed professional in a private setting. If you need legal advice, please consult with an attorney. This is not a law firm.