Every week I’m asked questions by small business owners, and sometimes I get a question that makes me want to call one of my experts to get the perfect answer.
This week’s question: When do you need to create a trademark or register a patent for your concept? How do you determine which one to use and when do you need to take action? This time I called Nellie Akalp, the CEO of CorpNet.com, for help. www.Corpnet.com is an online legal document filing service, that helps entrepreneursIncorporate or Form an LLCfor their new businesses.
Nellie Akalp: A company’s Intellectual Property can be just as important as the balance sheet and financial results, so I do suggest spending some time to explore what’s needed to protect your new website and business. In terms of a trademark vs. patent, here’s what you need to know:
You should obtain a trademark for a product name, company name, logo, and/or tagline. This will help prevent anyone else from trying to use your property (i.e. your logo) for their own business. A patent gives an inventor exclusive rights to manufacture, use, or sell an invention for a certain number of years. If you’ve invented something, you should patent it; otherwise, you don’t have to worry about getting a patent for your business. However, you may also want to consider seeking copyright protection for your website copy. As soon as you write and publish the copy on your website, you automatically own a copyright for the work, but copyright registration provides a public record of ownership, making it much easier to prove ownership should someone copy your website material without permission.
If you are considering getting a trademark, here are a few more details. You’re not actually required by law to register a trademark; use of a name gives you ‘common law’ rights as an owner. But you should consider formally registering a trademark for stronger protection (especially if you’re doing business in more than one state). Registering a Trademark application with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) is a relatively easy process. Expect to pay approximately $325 in application fees per class and the process can take anywhere from 9-12 months once your application is submitted. Note that the process for a Patent is a bit more complicated and can take up to six years to complete so entrepreneurs normally bring in an attorney which can lead to about $7 – $15k in fees.
Do you have a small business question? Do not hesitate to ask.
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Imani Wisdom says
Thanks for posting this article. I’ve been researching the cost of trademarking my logo and I knew it was $325, but I had no idea I should trademark my tagline as well. Very interesting.
Kelli Proia says
As an IP professional, I am almost horrified at how inadequate this information is. For instance, you cannot get trademark protection on a company name in and of itself. A trademark is for the names, taglines, and logos for products or services. Sometimes the name of the company is the name of the product, like Coca-Cola, but the trademark is on the beverage not the company name.
Also, there was no mention of provisional patent applications, a cheaper option for start-ups and entrepreneurs strapped for cash. Timing is critically important in patent matters. Once you disclose your invention to the public, you have one year from the date of disclosure to get a patent. Otherwise, you cannot get patent protection. With the passing of the America Invents Act it is important for your readers to understand that they need to get a patent quickly. The US has adopted a ‘first-to-file’ model. While patents are expensive, many law firms have programs to help start-ups get patents at little or no cost.
I could go on and on, but this small snippet of information actually does more harm than good.