You have your new Website up and running, and are ready to start bringing in sales. Perhaps, you spent hours writing the copy yourself? Or maybe you hired a big, Web company to design a site with all the bells and whistles? Either way, you are not finished…. unless, you did this one, key step… [...]Continue Reading
Archive for “Web-Based Business”
“Social Commerce” is a big buzz word these days. As many continue to talk about merging social media and e-commerce, there is no clear consensus as to what the main driver of social commerce will end up being. Many think its about finding ways to promote and sell products on Facebook, others think its about [...]Continue Reading
This one is especially for the ladies, because I think this is an epidemic issue with us. But men, you are warmly welcome here! I hope everyone gets something from this post….read on! There are so many programs out there that talk about marketing, sales, Social Media, finding your bliss, etc…. All of these things [...]Continue Reading
Also, if you send out email communications with your customers or clients, you absolutely must adhere to the federal Can-Spam Act or you could find yourself being prosecuted and fined heavily for being a spammer. This is no small thing and I have had clients almost go out of business because they were embroiled in litigation with the US Attorney’s office for violation of the Can-Spam act. Among other things, you must have clear authorization to contact someone via email, and you must provide a clear and easy way for someone to unsubscribe from your list. Never ever send an email to someone who didn’t voluntarily give you their email address and agree to you using it to contact them. I personally think the best way to handle this for yourself is to use a service that will collect and monitor emails for you, such as Aweber, iContact or Constant Contact. They will receive the “unsubscribe” requests and the database will automatically remove that email from your list and will put it on a “do not contact” list to comply with the Can Spam act. There is a monthly fee to use these services, but this is about easily minimizing a huge risk in the virtual world and I wouldn’t bat an eye and using one of these services.
If you put these two items in place on your website, you will make huge leaps forward in protecting your hard work, your business and your reputation as your business grows in the virtual world.
I love the internet. It is a great leveling force, allowing small businesses to have the same presence at huge corporations. It allows start-ups to reach as wide an audience as multi-national companies. And these days, getting online and having a great looking, user-friendly website is as easy as saying 1-2-3. But before you launch [...]Continue Reading
It’s time. Right Now. Stop dilly-dallying. Starting a business doesn’t have to be scarey. And you don’t have to wait. Start on a path to opening your own business. Get our life-changing book, StartupNation: Open for Business. There are easy steps you can take. And there are over 30 examples of success stories using our process, [...]Continue Reading
Here are the two logos at issue:
Apparently, Jimmy has a great sense of humor and set up his company to sell some t-shirts and hopefully raise money to cover his college tuition (he did end up raising something like $100,000, according to Hurst). I love this disclaimer on his website:
We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under “The North Face” brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.
(Sound of author trying to compose herself after period of robust laughter)
Anyhoo….long story short, management at The North Face failed to see the humor in this situation (or apparently the difference between a face and a…. bottom) and actually slapped Winkelmann with an expensive trademark infringement lawsuit.
Hurst’s post does a great job of analyzing what the North Face would have to establish to prevail on their claim (something Hurst doesn’t think they will succeed in doing – and I agree with him).
But this does bring up a couple of really important points for those of us launching and running businesses.
(1) Don’t Use A Name That Is Already In Use!
When you are choosing a name and logo for your company, make sure to research whether that name is in use already (particularly in the industry that your company will be in) and make sure you do not create a logo that looks like one from another company (as best as you can determine). You need to search your state records for names (usually the Secretary of State’s office will have the ability to search LLCs and Corporations in your state; also search any other state in which you plan to do business now or in the future). Also search national records, such as the TESS at the US Patent and Trademark office. I also recommend doing a Google search for the name to see if the domain is taken (or any variation of it) and to see if anyone is already using that word or combination of words for their business already.
Right or wrong, big companies generally are not shy about enforcing their trademarks (as you can see in the North Face case) and you don’t want to end up getting a cease and desist letter from an in-house legal department just after you spent your last red-cent having your logo and branding designed.
If your name or logo could cause confusion between your company and one with an already established trademark, you could be found to be infringing on their trademark. If you are, you could be forced to change your name, logo, packaging and anything else that uses the infringing mark. If you have any market traction already, you would then have to rebuild your brand and lose the work already put into marketing the infringing name/brand/logo. Add to that potential money damages and attorneys fees, and not doing your homework about your trademarks becomes an expensive (and potentially fatal) detour for your business.
(2) Protect Your Own Trademarks!!
Once you are sure you aren’t at risk of infringing on someone else’s trademarks, make sure that you have properly trademarked your own logo, tag lines and even product names and packaging so that you have the ability to protect your intellectual property and branding if someone does attempt to infringe on your trademark in the future.
Generally, “use” of the trademark itself does give you some protection (use the ™ symbol as soon as you start using anything you want trademarked). That means, always include the symbol on your website, on all of your advertising, correspondence/emails with customers, and written materials at a minimum.
But the best way to protect yourself if to file with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to have a “registered” trademark (at which point you use the symbol ®).
Of course, I recommend hiring a good lawyer for this, as the paperwork can be tricky and you want to make sure it is done right. However, there are services out there that can help you file your own paperwork, such as Legal Zoom, so you have that less expensive option.
Just don’t decide to NOT trademark your branding. That could be an expensive mistake if someone else decides to use your name, logo or a variation of your logo (deliberately or without knowledge of yours). If you don’t have a registered trademark, you might not be able to stop them from using it, you will have less protection under the law to go after them, and might even lose your right to use your own name or logo in the future.
I’ve glossed over this because it is really fairly complicated subject, so make sure you find someone knowledgeable in trademarks to help you navigate this process. (And now for the required disclaimer: this post is NOT intended to give legal advice, so seek your own independent counsel for that!)
And if you have any experience with trademarks for your business (positive or negative), or questions, we want to hear from you so make sure to post a comment below!
You can read all of Hurst’s post at the link below.
I just came across a great blog post by a fellow attorney, J. Michael Hurst at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLLC. Apparently, 19-year old Jimmy Winkelmann created a company called The South Butt LLC, which was meant as a parody of The North Face. Here are the two logos at issue: Apparently, Jimmy has [...]Continue Reading