I’ve been thinking a lot about trademarks recently.  Seth Goldstein hosts a blog about the Philadelphia tech scene, he asked me to do a guest post, so I thought I’d write on the intersection of trademarks and entrepreneurship.

Trademarks are federally protected words/phrases/symbols/designs that are used to differentiate the goods of one company from the goods of a competitor company.  It could be your company name, or you logo, or both.  They protect your brand by helping to eliminate any confusion between your product and another product.  Imagine if I started a company that sold gym shorts and made my logo a swoosh, but…just like a swoosh basically the same thing as Nike’s swoosh but a tiny bit different.  What do you think would happen? Correct! You would have lawyers all over you. Why? Because Nike has the swoosh and they sell gym shorts and their trademark protection allows them to do so exclusively, it allows them to hold on to the strength of their swooshy brand.

You shouldn’t confuse trademarks with copyrights.  A copyright gives you the legal authority to be the exclusive provider of…something.  Artistic work, musical works, literary works.  Copyright’s expire – you want to write your great Frankenstein story?  Have at it. Trademarks potentially do not expire.  They can last forever, as long as the company continues to use it to identify its goods.

A lot of companies I deal with get interested in trademarking (typically, their name or logo) fairly early on in their history.  It provides a great sense of peace of mind, even if at that time in their growth it is mostly in a symbolic sense.

We spend a lot of time building something, finally get that name or that logo that we love (or at least don’t hate and bought for five dollars) and it says something to the world about our company.  It feels good to know it is exclusively ours, you can go out there confident in how you are presenting your company to the world.  You might be surprised to see how high it ranks on entrepreneur’s lists of things that they want to make happen.

The process is, in a nutshell, this:  You decide on a name, we search the database to see if there are any other companies that do what you do and have your name or a similar name.  If they aren’t any, then will file for your mark.  The government attorneys review your submission and accept it.  We then have six months to prove to the government that we are using the logo or name in interstate commerce.  This simply means that your business is in PA but you can prove you can make money in any other state.  If you can prove that, you get the protection. If you can’t, they give you a few six-month extensions to be able to prove it.


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Joseph Console, Esq.
Joe advises entrepreneurs from the kernel of an idea to initial company formation to employment and distribution contracts to liquidity. His firm, Console Legal, focuses on making the process of maintaining and distributing wealth a clear, straightforward process.
Joseph Console, Esq.

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