Friday, June 30, 2006

Domain Names: What NOT to Choose as a Domain Name for Your Business

Choosing a domain name for your business can be one of the most important decisions you make. You want something that relates to your business, is catchy and is easy to remember. Just keep in mind what you don't want.

Top 3 Types of Domain Names to Avoid:

  • Names that don't apply to your business or industry: Sounds obvious, I know, but with the millions of domain names that are taken, choosing an obscure name can be a tempting trap to fall into. However, the likelihood of customers finding you gets that much more difficult with a vague name. Also, prominent display on major search engines is harder to acquire.


  • Names that are very long: The longer the name, the easier it is for people to forget it altogether or remember it incorrectly. So keep it as short and simple as possible. However, if your business name is long and you're well established in your industry, your best bet may just be sticking with your current name.


  • Names that are owned by someone else: It's not possible to secure the exact same domain name as someone else but it is possible to be infringing upon another's trademark or common-law rights with a confusingly similar name. Mistakenly, many times a new company will assume its trade name is legally clear merely because it was able to purchase a dot com or other domain extended name. Prior to securing your domain name, be sure to have comprehensive research conducted on the domain name.

Be creative in choosing your domain name – just remember what to avoid!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Trademark Info: Is it Possible to Search my Trademark for Free?

Yes and no is really the only way to answer this question. While there are some great preliminary sites anyone can access for free, that is NOT a clear cut indication of what’s out there in terms of company names, service names or product names.

Only comprehensive research will tell you if a name is truly available.

Let's take a look at some free, preliminary sites and where they fail to be comprehensive:



  • The USPTO Web Site: You'll be able to search some of the Federal trademark files at this site.

    What it's missing:
    State trademarks; Common-Law databases such as incorporation listings, DBA records, company directories, newspapers, product announcements, etc.

    What it lacks: Does NOT search intelligently (i.e. synonyms, spelling variations, word placement, etc.) unless you manually enter in those variations


  • Your Secretary of State web site: Your state may have an online searchable database.

    What it's missing:
    Federal trademarks; All other State trademark listings; Common-Law databases

    What it lacks: Provided that your state does have a searchable database, you'll want to be sure to check how often it's updated and if it searches intelligently


  • Yellow pages: SuperPages allows users to search nationwide. Simply enter the business name & leave the other fields blank.

    What it's missing: Federal AND State trademarks; Common-Law databases

    What it lacks: Does NOT search intelligently (i.e. synonyms, spelling variations, word placement, etc.) unless you manually enter in those variations

Take advantage of these free resources before hiring an attorney or private company to conduct a thorough search.

Yes, you can search your business name for free – just know that it's not comprehensive!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Starting a Business Series – The One Mistake many Owners make when Starting a Business

You've decided to go into business for yourself. You've done your research into your industry, overhead, equipment, advertising, etc. You're all set to go, right?


Wrong!

If you have NOT had comprehensive research conducted on your business name, then you do not know if it's truly available.


A common mistake many new business owners make is assuming that their business name is available simply because:

  • the domain name was available

  • the fictitious name was available

  • the corporate name was available

  • internet research showed the name was available

  • yellow page research showed the name was available

The above are merely preliminary indications of what business names, service names, and product names are out there. Only comprehensive research will tell you if a name is truly available for use.

Ok, so what is comprehensive research?

Comprehensive research entails searching a variety of files.

The first step is a comprehensive search of the pending and registered Federal and State trademark files. Similar names matter too!
The search should look for similarities in Sound, Appearance and Meaning, which means looking at synonyms, spelling variations, word placement, translations (if necessary), etc.

The second step is a comprehensive search of US National Common-Law files. This entails searching all incorporation records, all fictitious name/DBA records, Dun & Bradstreet Ò records, product announcements, newspapers, company directories, etc.

If the research proves clear on both steps, you can then decide if you'd like to file for a State or Federal trademark.

Don't make the mistake of assuming your business name is available – only comprehensive research will tell you that!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

TradeMark Express Starting a Business Series: Restaurant

The best routes to take are to research the process of starting a business as well as the industry you're interested in.


I recommend checking out the
Small Business Administration, Entrepreneur, Start Up Journal, Wall Street Journal & Nolo’s Starting a Business – Resource Center. All four are great informational resources for the new/small business owner.

Associations may be a good avenue to explore as well. These organizations will address many of the thoughts, questions and concerns you'll inevitably have as well as many you haven't anticipated yet.


Research, research, research – this cannot be stressed enough. Read as much as you can about the industry. Here are some book titles that are relevant:


There are plenty of free informational resources out there. Check out these free articles:

Writing a Restaurant Business Plan to Help Your Business Grow by Shaunta Pleasant
Menu Driven Business Planning by Monte Zwang
The Only Way Left for the Little Guy to Get Rich in the Restaurant Business by Jerry Minchey

Hope that helps! I wish you much success & happiness in all your ventures!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

TradeMark Express Starting a Business Series: Record Label

The best routes to take are to research the process of starting a business as well as the industry you're interested in.

I recommend checking out the
Small Business Administration, Entrepreneur, Start Up Journal, Wall Street Journal & Nolo’s Starting a Business – Resource Center. All four are great informational resources for the new/small business owner.

Associations may be a good avenue to explore as well. These organizations will address many of the thoughts, questions and concerns you'll inevitably have as well as many you haven't anticipated yet. See the source box for some relevant links.

National Association of Record Industry Professionals
Recording Industry Association of America
The Association of Independent Music

Research, research, research – this cannot be stressed enough. Read as much as you can about the industry. Here are some book titles that are relevant:

Start and Run Your Own Record Label, Revised and Expanded Edition by Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Label Launch: A Guide to Independent Record Recording, Promotion, and Distribution by Veronika Kalmar
Music Business Made Simple: Start An Independent Record Label by J.S. RUDSENSKE

There are plenty of free informational resources out there. Check out these
free articles:

Social Networking and Music: MySpace Puts it All Together in a Virtual Community by Scott G
So You Wanna Learn How to Start a Record Label by Dayne Herren

Hope that helps! I wish you much success & happiness in all your ventures!

Friday, June 16, 2006

TradeMark Express Starting a Business Series: Clothing Line

The clothing industry, as you can well imagine, is a
very competitive one. To succeed takes knowledge, patience, talent and a bit of luck. As far as the knowledge bit goes, I found some sources that will assist you further.

Associations may be a good avenue to explore as well. These organizations will address many of the thoughts, questions and concerns you'll inevitably have about the clothing industry as well as many you haven't anticipated yet.

International Association of Clothing Designers & Executives
Associations Directory for the Apparel & Fashion Industry

There's nothing quite like research – the more you know about the clothing industry, the better. There are plenty of free informational resources out there.

Also, here are some book titles that may interest you:

Hope that helps! I wish you much success & happiness in all your ventures!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Starting a Business Series: Retail Shopping Store

As this series continues, I'll provide details on specific types of retailing. But for now, let's talk about in a general sense.

The best routes to take are to research the process of starting a business as well as the industry you're interested in.

I recommend checking out the Small Business Administration, Entrepreneur, Start Up Journal, Wall Street Journal & Nolo’s Starting a Business – Resource Center. All four are great informational resources for the new/small business owner.

Check out Entrepreneur's How to Start a Retail Business Guide.

Associations may be a good avenue to explore as well. These organizations will address many of the thoughts, questions and concerns you'll inevitably have as well as many you haven't anticipated yet.

National Retail Federation
North American Retail Dealers Association
Retail Industry Leaders Association

Research, research, research – this cannot be stressed enough. Read as much as you can about the industry. Here are some book titles that are relevant:

And what if you're selling online? While many of the processes will be similar, there are key differences. Check these out:

There are plenty of free informational resources out there. Check out these free articles:

Building Retail Business without Financial Muscle by James Little
Start a Small Retail Business with Multiple Sales Channels by Jacob Wren
Retail Selling Strategies by Donny Lowy

Hope that helps! I wish you much success & happiness in all your ventures!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Starting a Business Series: I want to start a business – I just don't know what it is yet

So, you've decided that it's time you became your own boss. You have the drive, the ambition and the guts…you're just missing the idea.

Think of all your interests and ask yourself if any of those could be expanded into a business. Compile a list of all the activities you love doing as well as any education or experiences.

Just keep in mind...what's your expertise? What are your interests? What could you imagine yourself doing?

By researching the prospect of starting your own business -- what it entails, what you need to know, helpful hints, etc -- you'll feel better prepared to take that plunge.

There are some great sites out there that offer information and the need-to-know basics for the new business owner. I recommend checking these out:

Small Business Administration
Entrepreneur
Start Up Journal, Wall Street Journal
Nolo’s Starting a Business – Resource Center

Here are some books that should get you going in the right direction:

* 101 Internet Businesses You Can Start from Home by Susan Sweeney
* The Best Home Businesses for the 21st Century by Paul Edwards
* Selling Online: How to Become a Successful E-Commerce Merchant by Jim Carroll
* I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It by Barbara Sher
* I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work by Julie Jansen

And lastly, there are many free resources out there that will get the cogs turning. Check out these articles:

5 New and Lesser Known Online Business Ideas by Rojo Sunsen
How to Find Hot Online Business Ideas by Jeff Smith
Types of Internet Opportunity (What's It All About?) by Yigit Djevdet
Guide to Internet Business – Concept & Opportunities by Steven O. Ng
Top 7 Home Business Ideas by Jennifer Carter
Best Home Business Ideas – How to Choose One by Frederic Madore
Home Based Business Ideas by Kent Pinkerton
How to Start a Low Cost Home Based Business by Randy Wilson

With a little mental elbow grease and soul searching, figuring out what you want to do can be a fun and enlightening experience.

Starting tomorrow, I'll get into specifics for industries.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Starting a Business Series: How do I do it? Where do I go? What's next? Now what? HELP!

I've come across these and similar questions over the years. As a result, I've done some digging & research for past clients that I want to be sure to pass on to whoever needs the help. But it's really only helpful if the advice is geared towards your specific industry…

And with that, I humbly present TradeMark Express' Starting a Business Series!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting information about starting a business in specific industries and for specific goods and/or services. So whether you want to own a clothing line, become a freelance writer, run a restaurant, etc., this will be a one stop shopping spree of information.

Here's to learning! And to your success as an entrepreneur!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Copyrights and Patents: Is your Copyright really a Trademark?

Intellectual property (i.e. copyrights, trademarks and patents) can be a confusing idea to wrap your mind around. Do you need a copyright? Or is it a trademark? Let's take each one, point by point, and by the end of this post, you will have a good idea about where you should go next.

Copyrights:

Copyrights can be obtained for things of an artistic nature. This includes, of course, poetry, films, sculptures, music, fiction, etc. But can also include things that may not necessarily seem "artistic" in the general sense of the word. Copyrights can also be obtained for advertising copy, games, software programs and blueprints, to name just a few.

To file a copyright, head over to the US Copyright Office. Applications are $30 each, though that's likely to rise to $45 come July 1st.

Trademarks:

Trademarks can be names of products or services, logos, slogans, packaging and even sounds and smells. In essence, a trademark can be almost anything that is used to identify a particular product or service. Registering a trademark grants the owner exclusive rights to the mark within the specified industry. Of course, it's necessary to research the mark comprehensively prior to filing to ensure that there is no possibility of infringing upon another party.

I listed some links where you can do some preliminary name checking. However, please be aware that this is merely scratching the surface of what's out there. Only comprehensive research will tell you if the name is truly available. But, these links are free & a great place to start, so I'd try them out first.

To register a trademark, contact either your Secretary of State for a State trademark or the US Patent & Trademark Office for a Federal trademark.

If you are only conducting business in one state, then a State trademark is most appropriate. If you conduct business in at least 2 states OR between the US & any other country, you can file for a Federal trademark.

So…is your copyright really a trademark? Is your trademark really a copyright? Hope this post helped you out with those questions.

Get Your Free Links Here:
http://www.uspto.gov/ -- US Patent & Trademark Office; go to the TRADEMARKS section
http://biztaxlaw.about.com/od/research/a/Sec_of_state.htm --Go to your state's Secretary of State page to see if they have a searchable database of business names
http://www.nameboy.com/ – Searchable Domain Name Database
http://www.smartpages.com/ – National Yellow Pages
http://www.hoovers.com/free/ – Research Company Information
http://www.thomasnet.com/ – Must register (free) to search their database

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Trademark Info: What You Ought to Know

Trademark law affects every business in the United States. Don't assume that your new business name, new product name, slogan or logo has not already been used commercially OR trademarked! No business name may be used in any one of the following cases, IF there is a conflict or similarity in sound, appearance or meaning & industry:


There are over 2,500,000 Trademarks, and over 16,000,000 commercial Common Law trade names in use. ANY existing Federal Trademark, State Trademark or commercial Common Law use takes precedence over your new business or product name, IF there is a conflict or similarity in sound, appearance or meaning & industry.When you create a new business name, product name, slogan or logo, you will begin to establish your legal rights to your name in the geographic trade area where you do business based on Common-Law usage.

However, the question is: Is your trade name truly available?

It is a company's obligation and it is in their best interest to enforce its marks. Trademark owners have up to five years to find and order businesses to change any infringing trade name.Infringing trademark companies could face costly attorney bills ($200 to $350 hour), immediate renaming of their company or product, recall of products, forfeiture of profits, re-marketing of the new name, and marketing change-over for a new name, including logo, signs, corporation, forms, checks, packaging, yellow page listings, web site, etc.

Comprehensive research is truly a need for any new business name, new product name, new slogan or new logo.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Trademark Info: 3 Benefits a Logo Gives to your Brand

Whether you're just starting your business or your business is well underway, this question has more than likely popped into your head:

Should I have a logo?

The answer to this is really internal. You know your market, your customers and your plans for your business better than anyone. So before deciding whether or not to get a logo created, ask yourself these questions:
  • Would the addition of a logo benefit my brand? In other words, would a logo amplify, enhance or highlight my overall purpose?

  • Does it make sense for me to have a logo? For example, if you have a clothing line, a logo could make brand recognition that much easier and thereby customers could recognize you just on your image alone. The reverse would be, for instance, if you ran a small accounting company out of your home & and are not interested in recruiting new clients…well, investing in a logo might not make a whole lot of sense.

  • What do my competitors do? Now, of course, you want to set yourself apart from your competitors but you also want to be consistent within your industry.

If after answering these questions, you're still not sure, consider these three benefits a logo offers to your business:

  1. Helps make a plain name unique: If your name is merely descriptive and/or geographic, the addition of a logo could add to the uniqueness factor of your entire brand. That uniqueness factor is what most every business should strive for – setting yourself apart from others in your industry and thus creating a stronger brand.

  2. Gives your product or service a "personality": How can a product line or service have "personality?" Think of virtually any famous name and what it would lose if their logo did not exist. Imagine if McDonald's ® didn't have the golden arches' ® or Nike's ® ubiquitous 'swoosh' ® never existed? Would their brands be as strong today if that image wasn't imprinted on the minds of most consumers? Would those brands have the same "personality" based on name alone?

  3. Establishes brand identity: One of the goals of establishing brand identity is to get customers to remember who you are and to come back to you time and time again. Hopefully, customers will remember you by name alone. But, without a doubt, images stick in people's minds a lot easier than mere words. By integrating a name and logo together, you're that much closer to getting that customer to remember you and to call you again.

Consider all of the above when it comes time to make a decision about a logo. If you do decide to use a logo, you'll want to ensure that no other party already owns rights to the same or similar logo. Then if research proves clear, you can decide if filing for a trademark is the next step.

Logos - the addition of one can become a valuable asset to your business!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trademark Info: Trademarks - A Quick Introduction

With the combined advent of the internet/dot-com boom and the prevailing trend of individuals going into business for themselves, the focus and importance surrounding intellectual property has been in the forefront of the minds of entrepreneurs, artists, inventors and anyone wanting to protect the fruits of their labors.

Because intellectual property and the laws therewith can change as rapidly as our ever-increasing technological world, it is imperative that when doing research on these topics to use accredited resources – contact either the appropriate governmental agencies, attorneys or private companies that specialize in these topics.

TRADEMARKS :

Trademarks are frequently thought of as those items that identify either a product or a service. This can include names of services (e.g. McDonald’s ® for restaurant services) or products (e.g. Coca-Cola ® for soft drinks), logos (e.g. Nike’s ® swoosh design), slogans (e.g. American Express’ ® Don’t Leave Home Without It ®), packaging, sounds and smells.

There are over 2,500,000 Trademarks, and over 16,000,000 commercial Common Law trade names in use! An existing Federal Trademark, State Trademark or commercial Common Law use can take precedence over your new business or product name, IF there is a conflict or similarity in sound, appearance or meaning!

SIMILARITIES IN SOUND, APPEARANCE & MEANING:

What exactly is a similarity in Sound, Appearance or Meaning? This is the most complex portion of any legal name research. In order to determine what may or may not be a similarity, one has to be as open minded as possible to include any & all variations that could possibly confuse the common consumer. Some examples may help with this:
  1. Joe has a pending Federal trademark for his auto detailing service called It’s in the Details. Becky wants to call her new auto detailing service, It is the Details. They are both offering the same service and their trade areas cross. This is a Strong Similarity, based on Sound & Appearance, their crossing of trade areas & Joe’s pending Federal application.

  2. Mary has a Federally registered trademark for her clothing line, Scary Mary’s Apparel. Dan wants to use the name Mary Frightful Wear for his clothing line. This is a Strong Similarity, based on Meaning & Mary’s Federal registration.

  3. Sam has a California state registered trademark for his restaurant, Crabtastic Eats! and has no plans to expand outside of the state and primarily serves locals. Hannah's restaurant, Crabtastic, is located in Maine. She also has no plans to expand outside of the state and primarily serves locals. This is NOT a Strong Similarity based on their different trade areas.

  4. Lorena’s online payroll service, Pay Up, has been in use for 15 years and has clients across the country. Gene wants to start an online payroll service called Wage Wizard. Neither of them have trademarks. This is NOT a Strong Similarity based on the dissimilarity in the names.

No claim is made to the ownership, knowledge or liability of the above personal and/or company names. The above examples are merely for informational purposes and should only be seen as such.

Naturally, there will be exceptions to every situation. For instance, similar trademarks (in name and goods/services) can coexist peacefully if both parties are comfortable with one another’s existence. This can happen if trade areas do not cross (e.g. located on opposite coasts), if they appeal to different consumers (e.g. one sells to private industry while the other sells to the general public), etc.

FAMOUS TRADEMARKS:

Trademarks that are famous are afforded slightly different protection based on the very nature of their recognizability. Simply, the argument for famous marks is that since their brand name is recognized by a vast majority of consumers, any marks similar to it, even in different industries, could be construed as an infringement. The main justification for this is if “the owner of a famous mark shall be entitled, subject to the principles of equity and upon such terms as the court deems reasonable, to an injunction against another person’s commercial use in commerce of a mark or trade name, if such use begins after the mark has become famous and causes dilution of the distinctive quality of the mark.”

Of course, like with all trademark issues, there are gray areas. Each potential infringement is taken on a case by case basis. Not all cases end up favoring large corporations either. Take the famous case of Victor’s Secret & Victoria’s Secret (Moseley et. al. d/b/a Victor's Little Secret v. V Secret Catalogue, Inc., et al.), in which the smaller company won their case.

The best route to take if there is a possibility of an infringement, famous mark or not, is to speak to a trademark attorney. She will assist you in determining what the next best step is as well as offer assistance with any preparation and filing of documents.

SUMMARY:

While trademark law can be intimidating to the uninitiated, obtaining the help of a trademark attorney or an experienced private company will make the entire process go much smoother. There are preliminary steps one can do when starting a business and/or renaming a business:
  1. Choose a name that is unique and distinctive. Generic or descriptive names are not generally allowed registration by the USPTO and are more difficult to enforce.

  2. Do as much free research as you can before hiring an attorney or a private company. Check the internet, yellow pages, domain names & the USPTO.

  3. Be aware that any research you do for free online is merely preliminary and only comprehensive research will tell if the name is available.

  4. Once you receive the trademark, it is your responsibility to enforce your trademark rights. To do this, either have research conducted every 2-3 years OR hire a monitoring service.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Intellectual Property – The 3 Branches:Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents

When you hear the phrase intellectual property, what do you think of? How can something that exists in your mind be considered property? Are your ideas your property similar to that of your house or car?

Simply put, no, your ideas are not something you can solely own. After all, if ideas were never shared in the marketplace, where would we be? Imagine if Bill Gates had never shared his ideas about the new BASIC programming language that he and Paul Allen developed…
would Microsoft exist? How would that have impacted our world today? Let's take it back even further: what would life be like if Louis Pasteur had never shared his ideas about heat treatment, what we now call pasteurization? The sharing of ideas has brought us to where we are, good and bad.

So, what is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is those ideas fixed in a form. That is, it is NOT the idea itself but rather how it's presented. It's also the laws set up to register, manage and govern those presentation of ideas. That can be a bit hard to wrap your mind around so let's look at some examples from the three branches of intellectual property: copyrights, patents and trademarks.

Copyrights:


Copyrights can be obtained for things of an artistic nature. This includes, of course,
poetry, films, sculptures, music, fiction, etc. But can also include things that may not necessarily seem "artistic" in the general sense of the word. Copyrights can also be obtained for advertising copy, games, software programs and blueprints, to name just a few.

Patents:


Patents are protection for
inventions as well as significant improvements to already existing inventions. Inventions are mostly thought of as things like Edison's electric lamp or phonograph. There are three distinct sections within the patent realm – utility, design and plant. Utility patents protect the invention in its utilitarian sense (i.e. how it functions and how it's used) whereas design patents protect the invention in its ornamental appearance. Let's go back to Edison for an example: he obtained a utility patent for his electric lamp as well as a design patent for the look/design of the electric lamp.

Trademarks:


Trademarks can be names of products or services, logos, slogans, packaging and even
sounds and smells. In essence, a trademark can be almost anything that is used to identify a particular product or service. Registering a trademark grants the owner exclusive rights to the mark within the specified industry. Of course, it's necessary to research the mark comprehensively prior to filing to ensure that there is no possibility of infringing upon another party.

Summary


In a nutshell, those are the three branches of intellectual property. The free flowing of ideas has been and will continue to be important to our world development. Of course, protecting those representations of those ideas of yours, whatever form they take, can be just as important. Would Bill Gates be
the richest person in the world if he had not secured all of his intellectual property rights?

Let your ideas flow…but be sure to protect your intellectual property!

Friday, June 02, 2006

A little about me & the folks that pay my bills

Hello all! My name is Shannon Moore and I'm the General Manager for TradeMark Express. I've worked for the company since 1994 and became General Manager in 1996. I've heard many stories (some great and some tragic) in the 12+ years I've been involved with trademark research & all that that entails. The very nature of this business has also given me a fantastic education about intellectual property, of course, but also about starting, running, managing and growing a small business.

While I thoroughly enjoy what I do, there is a puppet master behind all this – TradeMark Express opened its doors in 1992 and since then we've met the needs of our clients with comprehensive research, application preparation, attorney referrals and trademark consultation.

As part of our dedication to our clients, new business owners, small business owners and anyone that has an interest in intellectual property &
business startups, we've decided to create a daily blog.

I'll be discussing matters pertaining to a number of issues that I've dealt with in the past 12+ years. These will range from intellectual property (of course) to
name creation to starting a business to…well, let's just say the topics will be wide open. Of course, if there's a topic you'd like discussed, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by & I'm looking forward to this writing journey!