By the year 2020 85% of the customer business relationship will take place without talking to a human and websites will be a vital part of this relationship. It doesn’t matter if it is a Facebook extension, Twitter extension, blog or company website as long as it is an extension of an established business, it could be protected by a trademark. Companies that already have a physical business and following are generally protected when they extend their footprint online. However, there is a new business model, where being online is your business.
I recently discussed the topic with Perry Clegg, a nationally recognized trademark attorney, who shared the following tidbit.
“The ease with which people can do business online has exponentially increased the number of mom and pop shops doing business in interstate commerce. Consequently, it is more likely see trademark conflicts arising both from copycat and inadvertent infringements. E-commerce and the blogosphere have rampantly increased the number of marks being used in any particular field of business.”
The number one type of site that is at risk is the common blog. Many people make money by running blogs. They make money by having advertising on their blog, or having PPC. Some people create online stores that sell other peoples products with no physical inventory. Some people sell information or have a subscriber base. However, not every blog or website needs trademark protection. There are a few questions that you should ask yourself, to decide if you should proceed with a trademark.
* Does your blog name have significant value to you or would you be willing to give up the name without remorse if another blogger or online business threatened you to change the name?
* Do you have or do you expect to have a significant blog following?
* Do expect to monetize your blog either through acceptance of paid ads, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, or other revenue models?
* Do you plan to use your blog for business, commercial, or branding purposes?
* Do you use your blog to share unique content that takes considerable effort to create or gather?
* Are you concerned about copycat bloggers or would you be bothered if someone else began a blog or website using a similar name to your blog name?
*Have you been publishing your blog for quite some time?
There is another possible way that a trademark may be useful. With quality domain names disappearing left and right many people have made a business of buying up domain names and reselling them for a higher price. This forces most people to settle for a less than optimal domain name or pay a lot more than they need to. For example, lets say you want the domain name rockrunner.com, but it isn’t available. Someone has bought the domain and wants to sell it to you for a much higher price. Rock-runner.com is available, so you buy it instead. You spend several years developing it into an outdoor recreation information site and establish a large following. Next thing you know, someone has bought Rockrunner.com and is using it to sell outdoor recreation equipment. If you properly trademarked Rock-runner.com, you may be able to force them to stop using the domain name and turn it over to you. It is not guaranteed to happen but it can happen and has happened in the past.
One mistake that many website owners make is confusing a copyright with a trademark. The content you publish on your site is automatically protected by copyright law. You don’t have to file anything for copyright protection, you do have to register it if you want to bring a law suit. However, the name and the mark that you publish the content under could be at risk without proper protection.
If any of the previous questions create some concern, you should consider obtaining trademark protection for your blog. Trademark protection could protect you in the event that someone starts a blog with the exact same name only using a different extension such as yourname.com vs yourname.info. Without legal protection very little can stop someone from registering a domain name very similar to yours and piggybacking off of your success.
Hiring an attorney is not always necessary for registering a trademark. Some people choose to hire an attorney and some people choose to do it themselves.