When you dreamed about starting a blog one day, the process to trademark your blog name may not have been one of the first things you considered. So what exactly is a trademark? A trademark indicates that a product or service is associated with a specific brand or company. For a blogger, this means your blog name, domain name, logo, even your website color scheme could all be trademarked.
Every blogger understands that having a positive online presence is essential to success. Having a federal trademark means that you have legal rights to take action against those that infringe on your blog name, whether intentionally, to hurt your reputation, or unintentionally, but with the potential to confuse your readers.
A trademark is also seen as a valuable business asset, as you grow your blog and potentially expand your brand. Consider beginning the process to trademark your blog name as soon as possible, to avoid infringing on other businesses, and to guard against others infringing on you.
Choose a Unique Blog Domain Name
In 2015, over 28 million blogs were considered active, and that number is expected to skyrocket in the next few years. Most likely, you are starting a blog because you feel you have something unique to offer to the world, so the blog and domain names you choose should be unique as well. Your domain name can either make you stand out in this flooded market, or you can be lost in a sea of similar blog names, which can confuse readers that may like what you have to say, but can’t quite remember your domain name well enough to find you again.
Consider choosing a strong blog and domain name from the beginning. First, be sure that you aren’t including any already trademarked works in your name. For instance, ILoveHomeDepot.com may accurately match the home repair content on your blog, but your trademark will not be approved, since Home Depot is already a registered trademark. In fact, made up words or phrases are much more likely to be approved, because no competitors will be using it!
Complete a Comprehensive Trademark Search
Once you’ve decided on a domain name, the next step is to complete a comprehensive trademark search. This should determine whether any similar trademarks have been registered. If you discover that your mark infringes on another business, it is best to learn this before your blog is up and running.
Moving forward without completing a comprehensive trademark search could cost you significant time and money to rebrand your blog if an existing trademark owner determines you may be infringing on his or her business mark.
Some tech savvy bloggers may choose to complete their trademark search without the assistance of an experienced trademark attorney. Unfortunately, most search tools available to the public, including those found on do-it-yourself legal websites, will only produce exact wording matches.
Most trademark issues, however, do not arise from exact wording matches, but from matches that may be confusingly similar to the trademark owner’s customer or audience. Consider working with a professional trademark attorney from the start to be sure you aren’t infringing on an existing business, blog, or website.
File Your Trademark Application with the USPTO
You’ve chosen your domain name and completed a comprehensive trademark search. Now it’s time to file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You may be tempted to wait on this step in the process until you’ve written a few blog posts or attracted several readers, but it is in your best interest to file your trademark application as soon as possible.
The date in which you file will become your priority date. This means that any similar applications filed after your priority date may not be approved by the USPTO. Delaying your application may mean that a newer business or blog could secure the trademark rights to your blog name before you can.
The process to register your trademark with the USPTO takes approximately eight to ten months to complete, though in some cases, the process could take over a year from start to finish. During that time, an examining attorney with the USPTO completes a review of your application and another search to be sure you aren’t infringing on an existing business. While your application is being processed you are free to use the ™ symbol. Once your trademark has been registered, you are able to use the ® symbol, indicating that you own the rights to your mark.
Continue to Use and Police Your Mark
While it can be seen as a large accomplishment to register your federal trademark, simply receiving your approval from the USPTO isn’t the final step in the process. A trademark doesn’t expire as long as it continues to be used. After five years, you will need to show that your mark has been in continual use, and renewal applications with the same proof of use will need to be filed every ten years after that. Maintaining your blog, then, is essential to maintaining your trademark.
In addition to maintaining your blog, you must also actively police your mark. Though others may not have a legal right to use a similar mark in the future, it doesn’t mean that they won’t try to use a similar mark. In order to protect your mark, you must actively identify and take action against anyone trying to infringe on your federally registered mark.
Know your rights as a trademark owner, and understand the laws put in place to protect you from infringement. For example, the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act protects trademark owners from others wishing to profit from selling trademarked domain names.
A blogger’s online reputation is an important asset. Be sure you protect your reputation, as well as your investment of time and money, by trademarking your blog name. Start by choosing a strong and unique name. Then work with an experienced trademark attorney to conduct a comprehensive trademark search and file your trademark application. Learn your rights as a trademark holder, and actively police your mark. Protecting your unique blog and brand is key to future success!
About the author:
Josh Gerben is the founder of Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a trademark law firm that has secured over 4,000 federal trademark registrations for clients since 2008. Trademark lawyer Josh Gerben has been featured in a wide range of local and national news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and more.