Question: When you are looking to trademark an aspect of your business, what's the first thing you should do and why?
Conduct a Trademark Search
"You're presumed to be aware of every federally registered trademark, so if you start using a name and later find out that it was registered to someone else, then, at worst, you could be liable for trademark infringement. Even at best, you could still be forced to shut down your website and change the name/brand of your company. So always conduct a comprehensive trademark search before you commit to a name."
"If you're truly ambitious, don't just settle for a U.S. trademark. Go and register it in the European Union, Australia, etc. to avoid buying from squatters later on."
Understand the Terminology
"Trademarks, patents and copyrights are all different. Each protects a different type of property. Make sure that you understand what a trademark is and isn't and what it does and doesn't protect prior to filing."
Consider the Critical Parts of Your Business and Identity
"The things brands have trademarked may surprise you. So if you have something you'd like to have legal rights to over the long-term, make an attempt to trademark it. Hiring a lawyer to manage the process is a small cost relative to the potential gains if you successfully acquire those trademarks. "
Do Market Research
"So you've come up with an incredibly clever and catchy brand for your new product or service. You've run it by a few people and they say they love it. Great, but how will your target market respond? Can they pronounce it? Can they spell it? Do they get it (if there's anything to get)? In short, does it resonate, stick and work with the people that really matter which are your customers?"
Use the "TM" Symbol Immediately
"If you want to claim your right to a trademark, the first thing you should do is start associating your brand with a "TM" symbol. This will put others on notice that you intend to file for a formal registered trademark. Then, file the formal paperwork online through USPTO."
"You should make sure that you are using the term you want to trademark. It’s tough to get a trademark for something you aren’t actively promoting."
Proliferate Your Brand
"You are making an investment. Strategize to ensure you get a return. Don't just use your trademark on your website and business card. Think creatively about where else you can project your new brand. Letterheads? Sticky notes? Pens or mugs for friends and clients? Get mileage out of your trademark. Don't park it in the garage!"
Cover Your Bases
"You could avoid some upfront costs by first determining whether the aspect of your business is appropriate and necessary for trademarking. By doing a proper search you can see if there is a conflicting trademark or if there could be potential overlap. Depending on your circumstances, talking to a lawyer or using a platform like LegalZoom to file for trademark would be your next best step."
Make It SEO-Friendly
"When looking to trademark, do some research on trends, popular search terms and keywords within your industry. What are some words and phrases that your target market is searching for on a regular basis? You want to make sure that what you are trademarking (domain name, company name, company tagline, etc.) is SEO-friendly and something that will not be buried in search engines."