In the era of digital branding, I hear a question more and more frequently: "Should you trademark your blog name?" The internet has effectively lowered the bar to entry for many fields, spawning new brands at unprecedented rates. This rise prompts bloggers, big and small, to contemplate the legal protections they need for their intellectual property.
The answer, as in most issues regarding trademarks, is that it depends. Different bloggers have different needs, and so will answer the question based on their unique situations.
You Should Trademark your Blog Name if…
If you spend a lot of time creating unique, original, and valuable information to share with readers on your blog, you may have thought about trademarking your blog name already. You’re not alone. Many bloggers large and small have already taken this step.
For example, the AOL-owned blog THE HUFFINGTON POST is a registered trademark, as is the niche independent blog NOM NOM PALEO. How can you decide if your blog is worth trademarking? If any of the statements below are true for you and your blog, you might want to consider starting the trademark registration process:
- You share unique, original information on your blog that readers can’t find anywhere else
- You use your blog to communicate messages about your business/brand
- A large amount of readers/visitors/subscribers regularly come to your blog for the valuable information you provide
- You are starting to find other blogs that look and sound a lot like yours
- Your personal blog has evolved into a business opportunity
If you’re still unsure about whether your blog is worth trademarking, consult with a trademark attorney.
You Probably Should Not Trademark your Blog Name if…
Not every blog is worth trademarking. If any of the statements below are true for you and your blog, you should think twice before starting the trademark registration process:
- You primarily use your blog to share personal information
- Your blog and blog name are confusingly similar to another well-known blog that has trademark protection
- You’ve copied or repurposed a lot of content from other places on the web
- You haven’t started sharing anything on your blog yet
- You don’t ever really intend to use your blog for business or branding purposes
Again, if you’re still unsure about whether your blog is worth trademarking, consult with a trademark attorney.
The Benefits of Trademarking your Blog Name
With trademark ownership comes many advantages. If your blog meets the criteria listed above, it might be time to think about a federal trademark registration. You can then realize the many benefits of trademark registration, including:
- Legal ownership of the mark
- The ability to pursue legal action against infringers
- Your trademark will appear in searches, which serves as notice of your rights
- The ability to block imported goods from using your mark
- An easier path to international trademark rights
- Use of the ® registered trademark symbol
Trademarking your blog name can also help you build brand recognition and strengthen your brand’s reputation. You will build credibility among your followers and prospects, and help convince others (especially your competitors) that your content is original and valuable, and shouldn’t be copied or used without your permission.
How to Trademark your Blog Name: Initial steps
The trademark registration process is complex, but the structure is straight forward. Anyone filing a trademark application will typically need to follow the same steps.
- Determine whether you need/desire trademark protection. The two sections above should help you make this determination. Blogs with business or branding elements typically warrant a closer look at trademark registration. For personal blogs it is probably not necessary - unless you attain significant traffic and people recognize your name as a brand.
- Decide whether you should hire a trademark attorney. While it is advisable to do so, you do not need to hire a trademark attorney to handle your filing. There are, however, many benefits to doing so. For instance, trademark applications filed by an attorney have a 50% greater chance of approval.
- Identify your mark format. You can file a trademark in three formats: (1) standard characters, as in a name; (2) stylized/designed, as in a logo; or (3) sound. While your word mark might appear in your logo, you should still file separate trademark applications for each mark.
- Identify the precise goods or services to which the mark will apply. In addition to identifying your mark, you must also classify it among the accepted trademark classes. Depending on the type of application you file, you might need to identify a very specific set of goods or services that the mark covers.
- Perform a trademark search. You waste time and money if you apply for a trademark that is already taken -- or even if your application is confusingly similar to an existing mark. Before submitting your application, you must perform a comprehensive trademark search. This means more than simply searching the USPTO database for your mark. There are other considerations, such as common law trademark rights, that make deep searches a requirement before submitting an application.
- Determine your basis for filing. Existing bloggers will file a "current use" application. This simply means that the mark is currently in use in commerce. If you plan to launch a blog, particularly if it's a commercial endeavor, and want to trademark the name before competitors can think of it, you can file under "intent to use". According to the USPTO, this means that you "have a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce; that is, you have more than just an idea but are less than market ready (for example, having a business plan, creating sample products, or performing other initial business activities)." After receiving approval, you must start using your mark, and prove it to the USPTO, with in six months, or else file for an extension.
- File your application. Once you have completed the above steps, it is time to file your trademark application. If you've hired an attorney, he or she will do this for you. Otherwise, you can find the application on the USPTO website. After you file a trademark application, patience is key. Even if everything goes smoothly, it will take at least four months to hear back from the USPTO, and oftentimes the wait is six months. You might need to file additional paperwork at that point, which can extend the process further. But if you file and respond properly to all USPTO correspondence, you should have your trademark rights within 13-18 months.
Role of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency that oversees the registration of trademarks. If you plan to launch a blog, particularly a commercial endeavor, you can file under "intent to use". This indicates that you "have a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce". Existing bloggers will file a "current use" application, meaning the mark is currently in use in commerce.
After Trademarking Your Blog Name
Once you've successfully trademarked your blog name, it's crucial to maintain consistent online branding and presence. As part of your ongoing responsibilities, you may need to file additional paperwork or provide evidence to the USPTO showing you are actively using your mark in commerce.
Further Reading for Bloggers
These other articles and tips are likely of interest if you're currently running, or thinking about launching a blog: