Carrie Hertz and Dave Sherman, both of Infusionsoft, invited me to present to help their partners better understand the Infusionsoft® Trademark Brand Guidelines. This excellent set of guidelines concerning trademark usage, created by Carrie, can be found on the Infusionsoft website.
During the radio show, Dave and I discussed the specific rules for using the Infusionsoft logo and name by their partners. Many of these Infusionsoft rules can apply to other businesses. Kudos to Carrie for creating this model which is a best practice to emulate. We were also asked to give some IP tips for partners’ brand and trademarks (TMs) but ran out of time during the show (more on that in a minute).
To quickly recap, a trademark is a mark that both identifies the source of the product and distinguishes that product from any competitors’ product. Trademarks protect the public because they indicate the level of quality that the consumer can expect from that product. For example, when you open a can of Coca-Cola®, you do not expect to drink anything other than a Coke product. Infusionsoft has a family of marks and trade names that are protected and listed on their website.
Wherever we talk about intellectual property (IP), you have to remember there are two sides to consider. First and foremost is protecting your company’s IP. In this case, Infusionsoft has registered their own trademarks and encourages all their partners to do the same to protect their unique brand. However, with protection comes a need for enforcement against infringement, whether accidental or not. Brands are extremely valuable and keeping those brands untarnished is very important business. Often at the core of the enforcement issue is avoiding customer confusion around who is actually providing the service.
So now that you have a background on some IP concepts, here are our top four IP mistakes we thought useful in regards to brand and trademark issues:
- Use it or lose it
You need to use your TM’s in commerce or run the risk of losing them. It is not good enough to just register a name and then not use it.
- If you pay for it; you own it
Make sure you have an agreement in writing that specifically assigns the ownership of what is created to you whenever you are working on a new website, new logo, or other projects done for you by an independent contractor. This is a good time to have a legal professional check your contracts.
- A Domain name is not a trademark
Getting a domain name is not the same as getting a trademark. This is particularly important now with the .co and .<fill-in-the-blank-with-any-name>, which allows people to register names that may infringe on popular brands. For example, infusionsoftexpert.me would be a problem!
- “No copyright symbol means it’s fair game, right?”
No. Just because there is a not a © on a picture or document does not mean you can use it. If you did not create the item and you cannot figure out who did (to either pay them or have their permission), do not use it. Infringement fines are hefty.
Thanks again to Carrie and Dave for inviting me to speak on the show!
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Are you in marketing and thinking you do not have any IP? You cannot protect it unless you know what it is….