This blog will focus on common questions regarding owning your brand and intellectual property. Specifically, it will revolve around these two questions:
- What’s the number one mistake business owners make regarding “owning your brand?”
- How to protect your brand while waiting for a trademark application?
Question 1: What’s the number one mistake business owners make regarding “owning your brand?”
The number one mistake is failing to do due diligence before launching your brand. Of course, you can do your own level of due diligence by doing a Google search, looking on Instagram, and doing a “basic name search” on the uspto.gov (not only for direct hits but also for marks that might be similar to your mark).
Of course, it would be best to do a more comprehensive trademark search with an attorney. For example, when our team does comprehensive searches, we search hundreds! I mean hundreds of registered trademarks, common law trademarks, state business listings, trade names, and website findings. Not only that, we even look through listings on Etsy and Facebook. The search is comprehensive, and it’s comprehensive for a reason.
You may wonder, “why is the due diligence phase the number one mistake people make when owning their brand?” It’s because this phase is where you make informed decisions. Without the information, you’re operating only on assumptions.
I’d say trademarking is the second biggest mistake business owners make when owning their brand. You should own your brand fully and leverage the benefits of advocating for your intellectual property rights. If you don’t trademark and simply launch your brand, you won’t know what might be coming down the pipeline and won’t have peace of mind to unapologetically scale. Don’t play small.
To avoid this mistake, you might decide to take some messy actions—do a quick search and file your trademark yourself. That’s great!
However, right now, there’s a five-to-six-month waiting period to hear back from the USPTO. Remember, timing is everything when it comes to the authority of owning your brand. I don’t want you to wonder where your business will be when you hear back from the USPTO, and then you realize your application could’ve been more strategic to protect your rights. I don’t want you to go through the pain of rebranding five or six months later.
There’s a power to owning your brand. That power comes from making an informed decision, and informed decisions only come from good information. So, if nothing else, do your due diligence. Better yet, hire an expert to support you.
Question 2: How to protect your brand while waiting for a trademark application?
I know that we live in a culture where we’re trained to want instant gratification, but you won’t get it from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). So, what should you do while waiting for a trademark application?
Start using your mark.
If you filed an intent for the use because you aren’t using your mark in commerce yet, prepare for your launch. Keep in mind that while the filing date of your trademark application is important, the date of first use takes priority. So, the sooner you use your mark in commerce, the better. Once you’re using the mark in commerce, you can file a Statement of Use with this date of first use to demonstrate your use related to the goods and services you included in your trademark application. Keep in mind that if you’re not using your mark within six months of the USPTO’s issuance of a Notice of Allowance, you’ll have to file an extension to keep your trademark application going.
Continue using your mark.
If you were already using your mark before submitting your trademark application, continuing using your mark is the only way to ensure that it will be registered for those goods and services.
Continue advocating for your intellectual property rights.
Just because you don’t own the registered mark yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be reaching out to other businesses that have begun using your mark or the one that’s “confusingly similar” to your mark in commerce. Remember, the mere act of using it first gives you priority and the responsibility to advocate for your exclusive use.
Summary & Takeaways
Branding and advocating for your business isn’t an easy process. Timing is everything, and at times, we take some messy actions. But always consider the long term consequences of this messy action.
There’s authority in owning your brand. That authority comes from doing your due diligence, making informed decisions, being proactive, and advocating for yourself and your business’ vision.