Small Business, strategy

Basics of Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents

What’s in a name? Apparently, a lot. Beyonce trademarked her daughter’s name, Blue Ivy. Kylie Jenner is suing a company, claiming bad faith of using her daughter’s name, “Stormi Couture”. She wants that name. Prince Harry and Megan Markle recently filed and then rescinded the application for “Royal Sussexes”.

Copyrights, patents, and trademarks are legal ways to protect your assets, whether it is a brand name, website, film, photograph, or idea. Basically, if you own a business, you should have at least one of these.

Before you start coming up with a creative name for your business, you should do at least three easy searches. The first is to simply google your proposed name to see if there is a similar named business. The second step is to type in the name as a .com web address to see if it is used. For example, I typed in “www.smartandsassymoney.com” in the top bar to see if it was an active website. The third easy step is to then verify if the web address is available for a reasonable fee. You can do this through any website hosting place, such as http://www.namecheck.com, http://www.wordpresss.com, or http://www.godaddy.com. The good thing is that if the web address is already taken, then these systems will generate similar names that are available.

Copyrights– A copyright is used to protect library works, performing arts, visual art, other digital content, motion pictures, and photographs. Contact the U.S. Copyright Office at https://www.copyright.gov/. You can search through current copyrights, find more detailed information, and begin the process to register your copyright. It looks like the starting cost is about $35 for a single copyright.

A Patent is a right of ownership of intellectual property, such as a new business process, new design for a product, or new formula for medicine. To start the patent process, visit the USPTO website at https://www.uspto.gov/patent. Did you know that Amazon patented the ‘one-click’ shopping online? Basically, after a customer makes an online purchase, the system stores the payment information. On the second purchase, the customer can simply click once to buy an item. No need to go to a shopping cart, confirm the purchase, or enter credit card information again. Apple licensed this for many years from Amazon.. The patent expired September 2017. Now, any business can update its systems to one click shopping.

A Trademark is a word, words, or symbols that are legally registered for protection. Public companies and brand names are trademarked. You may have heard recently that the Sussexes removed their “Royal Sussex” trademark application.

To search for trademarks and any patents that are already registered, visit the USPTO website at: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database. To start the patent process, visit the USPTO website at https://www.uspto.gov/patent

Patent fees start at about $100 while Trademark fees start at $225. While these costs may seem high for businesses just starting out, the legal registration can potentially save you money down the road if someone uses your name or idea.

Be sure to add these items to your To Do list, if you haven’t already. Protect your company name, idea, and any artistic creations to ensure your business identity is protected.

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