Do you understand how trademarks for your business actually work? I totally didn’t, to be honest, and that’s why I wanted to have Joey on the podcast to educate ME and all of YOU! Now, trademarks might not seem like the most “exciting” topic, but it is so important to the health of your business. And, I seriously believe knowledge is power. Even just learning about and exploring this topic can be so beneficial!
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Joey is a trademark lawyer for online business owners, so he really GETS this space! He has helped tons of online entrepreneurs and course creators understand just how important trademarking really is and call legal dibs on their brands and signature methods.
Here are some of the questions that Joey and I talked through in this interview. Make sure to tune in to the full episode to hear all of the amazing wisdom Joey shared with me!
What IS a trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Trademarks protect you and your brand from others doing things that are “too similar”. This is a very gray area to define exactly what falls into this category.
As Joey points out, this definition might not be that helpful. He says to think about the phrase “Hakuna Matata” and who might own that phrase? Disney, right?! That is a great example of a trademark in action.
A trademark is when you hear or see something and it makes you think of a particular brand or business that is the source of that thing. Trademarks are the reason why sometimes when we hear Apple we think of a tech company or the reason why when we hear made-up words like Kodak or WordPress you think of specific things. These identify certain brands.
Joey says that ESPECIALLY in the online business space, it is really important to elevate your commodity from a business to a brand, meaning it can be recognizable by distinguishing elements.
What should we be trademarking?
You can trademark ANYTHING! As long as your argument is that whenever people hear it or see it they think of me. it's very difficult to get trademarks approved in the majority of them never actually go through.
Potentially, if your business name is your own name like mine is, you could potentially get extra strong trademark protection for that. But Joey says there is a good chance that isn’t the thing you should be prioritizing first.
Joey says that deciding what to trademark is not a matter of “do I need it” but more a matter of which one of the trademarks that I already own should I be prioritizing and protecting first in my business first.
Why are trademarks important?
There is a difference between “getting trademarked” and “securing your trademark rights with the government”. The end goal is not to get trademarked. The goal is to secure the rights that you already have as soon as you start using your logo, mark, brand, system, etc… with the government.
The reason this is so important is that it is almost impossible to enforce the trademark rights that you have without a registration. More importantly, you could be accidentally infringing on someone else and not realizing it.
Joey says that he teaches this framework to his students:
- Understand what is going on and what the laws actually are
- Put some layers of protection in place
- Patrol your rights to make sure no one is infringing on them.
Tune in the full episode to hear Joey tell his “horror stories” of clients who have run into trademark issues and see for yourself why this is so important!
Trademarks VS copyrights?
These both live under the umbrella of intellectual property which are the intangible rights that business owners have. You do not have to register anything to have these rights as a business owner.
The main difference is that copyrights protect your content and trademarks protect your brand. It is easier to register for copyrights than to register a trademark and they are more likely to be accepted than trademarks.
Where do I start with trademarks?
Joey says that to be really thorough, you want to have a lawyer help you with this process to make sure you do a deep dive. You will want to do a basic search through the trademark database. This is not as thorough as you want to go since this search is meant to look for exact matches.
You can also check out Joey’s free training on his RAD strategy that helps you learn how to do a deeper search!
Can I just ignore this and do the fun things instead?
I asked Joey, “What would you say to the entrepreneur who just wants to ignore this stuff?” and the short answer is no. You really don’t want to ignore the legal stuff.
For many of us, the legal side of our businesses feels SCARY and confusing. I know I fall into this category. Often we would rather just ignore it and do the stuff we feel passionate about instead.
Joey says that most legal situations are not going to be MAJOR issues. You can figure them out as you go while the business is still running. The difference with trademarks is that if you run into an issue here, you have to stop everything you are doing until you get it resolved.
Joey says that while you run your business hoping nothing bad ever happens to you, trademarks are the seatbelts you put on your business to keep you safe just in case.
Listen to the full episode to hear Joey explain this further with the rest of his car analogy!
Check out the full version of this episode to make sure you don’t miss out on any of Joey’s amazing wisdom! I hope this has been helpful and that you guys have enjoyed learning about the legal side of your business as much as I have!
Joey Vitale is a trademark attorney (also known as a "brand legitimizer") for online entrepreneurs, emerging thought leaders, and course creators. With his law firm and his courses, Joey helps online business owners call legal dibs on their brand name and signature methods so they never have to worry about losing their brand overnight. Joey has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and has spoken all over the country to help business owners stay safe and thriving.
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