Last time on MSNBC, Mary Juetten shared her thoughts about 4 common IP misconceptions on JJ Ramberg's show, The Business War Chest. This time, Mary and JJ delved into a segment on trademarks and five important things you need to know before applying for a trademark.
1. Understand the difference between federal and local trademarks. You can't get a federal trademark if you are not operating across state lines. And for local trademarks, laws vary state by state.
2. Use USPTO.gov as a free resource for trademark searches. However, make sure you seek proper advice from a professional to avoid making mistakes!
3. Do an Internet search for any competition. You need to know what else is out there. You won't find registered trademarks if someone is operating in your state without a federal trademark, and you also won't find one if they're working nationally but haven't filed yet!
4. Be careful with domain names. Although it's important to get your personal domain name for your business, understand that having that domain name does not give you any trademark rights to it. You still have to file federally or on the state level as necessary.
5. Know the difference between trademarks and copyrights. You have to apply for a trademark, but you "get a copyright when you express an idea in a tangible medium." A trademark allow you to use that mark exclusively, whereas a copyright grants you the right to use it and authorize others to use it according to your specifications. Copyrights are registered with the US Copyright Office.
Understanding each of these five concepts is important. As Mary mentions in her segment, trying to do it yourself is great, but make sure you know what you're doing, because otherwise, "you could end up wasting your time and, more importantly for a startup, your money."