One of the fun and creative parts of starting a business is coming up with a brand name. The name of your brand can be a reflection of your personality, your values, and your vibe. Unfortunately, it’s very common to get emotionally attached to a name for your business that could end up costing a lot of money, time, and heartbreak. If the brand name you’ve got your heart set on can’t be trademarked or is already trademarked by someone else, you may need to start over from scratch.
Choosing the right brand name
Like many craft business owners, I started my business by accident. My sister and I wanted to create an alternative form of entertainment for our friends that didn’t involve bar hopping so we came up with the idea of “cocktails+craft.” Soon, we began getting inquiries for paid gigs. When I started to get serious about clients, contracts, and profits, I realized that I had a problem with the name I’d chosen for our burgeoning business; I couldn’t protect “cocktails+crafts” because something similar was already trademarked by someone else. I knew it would be important to trademark my business name because there are many paint-and-sip businesses and they are sometimes similarly named so a trademark would be important to differentiate my business in the marketplace.
Some business names are overly generic which makes them hard to trademark at all. In the sector I was interested in, “Drink and Draw,” or “Paint and Sip” would be examples of this. These names are both generic or descriptive, which makes them hard to trademark.
The cost and time it takes to get a trademark
In order to resolve the issue I was facing, I ended up rebranding and trademarking a new name, Distill Creative. What I learned from the process is that the trademark process is expensive and takes a lot of time. Getting my trademark, for example, took over a year and cost me hundreds of dollars, even though I got free legal counsel from a university program that helps small businesses. Most businesses are not that lucky. Attorney costs normally range from $400 to $4,000 plus at least $250-$350 in government fees per product class to register a US trademark. It currently takes at least a year and usually about a year and a half from the time of filing a new trademark to have your brand name registered, and that’s assuming everything goes right.
What could go wrong?
- Someone could already own the name, or a similar one, for the same class.
- You or your attorney could file incorrectly and cause delays or get your trademark denied.
- Someone could object to your trademark after it’s been published for opposition.
- You or your attorney could forget to respond to one of the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO)’s arcane email or mailing notices.
- You could decide to change your business in a way that would make your original brand name not make sense anymore.
It’s possible that prior to the internet becoming a main means of commerce for most small businesses, a federal trademark was not that important, especially if you were only selling your goods or providing services in a small geographic area. But now that everything needs to be findable online, a federal trademark is both important and valuable.
Creating a simpler process
My husband is a trademark lawyer who has registered over 3,000 trademarks with his law firm JPG Legal. His experience with frustrated clients who either wanted a trademark cheaper and faster or realized they had to go back to the drawing board after getting a negative legal opinion on what they thought was an ingenious brand name, led him to consider creating a possible solution. That’s how he came up with the idea of Communer, an online marketplace for buying and selling registered trademarks, primarily brand names. I recently joined him because I’ve worked for or with many businesses and seen how helpful it is to have your trademark taken care of from the get-go.
We believe that creating a marketplace where someone can obtain a trademarked brand name for less money and in less time helps break down barriers that would otherwise delay or obstruct new small businesses, especially those created by women and people of color who may not have access to generational wealth and family (legal) connections.
At Communer, you can search by different keywords to find a brand name registered for the same types of goods or services you want to cover for your business. You can type in a name to see if something similar is available. You can see if the brand name comes with any other assets, like a matching .com domain name, social handles, or logo, and many of them do. Then you purchase the trademark just like you would purchase a domain name. Your funds are held in escrow until the legal paperwork, which Communer prepares and processes for you, is done. Your funds are transferred to the seller of the trademark only after the transaction is complete and you are the legal owner of the brand assets.
Once you own a trademark, you can do things like set up Amazon Brand Registry which allows you to remove anyone who infringes on your trademark or tries to copy your product and branding. On other platforms, you can often seize your brand name’s social media handle from the person using it if their account is dormant or they’re using it in a way that infringes on your registered trademark. We recently took over the handle @Communer on Instagram because we own the trademark.
In essence, there are two paths you can take when naming a new brand. You can pick a great brand name for your business, pay legal and government fees, and wait upwards of 1.5 years, or you can buy an existing registered trademark on a trademark marketplace like Communer and bypass the time and money you would have spent had you come up with a new brand name. By purchasing an existing trademark, you can confidently grow your business within a shorter time frame, at a lower cost, and with less stress.