The ides of the Internet – Trademarks (Part 1)

Aim of this article: to give entrepreneurs an introduction to trademarks; by reading these three articles, you will gain a working knowledge of trademarks, easily avoiding a huge pitfall that has befallen many an entrepreneur. (Part 2 is here; Part 3 is here).

Intro – Shlep time

Let’s take the whole naming process. It could be described as a schlep (as described by Paul Graham (the entrepreneur, not the evangelist.). So we’re talking about a psychologically unpleasant task that, if completed, while provide a great benefit to you.

Also – it won’t be nearly as hard to complete as feared.

I must say, writing this particular post is developing into a schlep in it’s own right for me, even though I know all the content I want to convey to you.

So let’s attack it. The benefits: imagine you and your team were kicking round a name. Now let’s say the process had been – taking a while. But you were finally there with a name.

Naming and the domain industry – contrary to some popular opinions – is not the Wild West. There is a framework of laws that applies – trademark laws.

In a nutshell, you need to make sure that the name you are hoping to use does not clash with any pre-existing trademarks. The earlier you do this, the better. Not only will you save precious time, you will avoid the horrible “back to square one” feeling.

If this is a well backed startup, a full clearance should be obtained. But you can head off most trouble very quickly and easily, potentially saving you a huge amount of time.

1. United States trademarks

Head over to TESS, The American Trademark DB. Scroll down to the paragraph with TESS in the title and click TESS.

If it’s a two word name, search as follows:

A. Word1 Word 2
(With a space between the words)

B. Word1Word2
(No space)

C. Word2Word1
(No space)

Adjust the process above for the number of words. For three or more words, search also for all the two word combinations within your phrase. Watch out for big single word trademarks such Amazon.

2. Uk and EU Community marks

Head over to the UK IP Office.

This is a great database as it includes EU community marks as well.

Just enter the words in your name and chose the option, “contains string”.

[Note: with the above searches for both US/UK, make sure to also search for similar words to the words included in your proposed name.

For example, if your name contains the word “tech”, make sure and also search for “technology”. (For the States only; in the UK, a search for “tech” will reveal all marks containing that word).]

Remember, only the paranoid survive.