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I've been to the site to register my business name, but they don't really give you all the costs involved. They just kinda lead you down the path of getting the process started.
Is it enough to trademark "My Business Name" or will I need to trademark "mybusinessname.com" as well? And what are the costs involved? Anyone have any experience with this kind of thing?
Expect to spend US$1500 - 2000 per trademark. There are no gurantees that you will be awarded the mark, but you can ask for a preliminary review which will give you a good idea if you're going to run into trouble. But just getting to that decision point can cost you $500 or more in legal fees.
Also, search on "trademark" down in the domain name forum, NFFC once put up a free online search site that was pretty good.
Oh, and don't be too surprised if you learn that YOU are already infringing on someone else's mark.
>rc, any thoughts on what will happen when the biz domain names become available, and could duplicate already existing com sites for the names?
Oooo, good question! In the US, I'm pretty sure that a dotcom domain trademarked earlier could effectively challenge and take away a dotbiz that came later.
(standard 'I'm not a lawyer disclaimer' goes here)
I have some graphics up, and had referred to them as plain vanilla graphics. It's just a little subdirectory, the site is not called that - it's an idle pastime. Some lady, however, found me with a search, probably at AV, and emailed me saying she had been using that name for a several years, and that she owned the trademark by reason of usage.
Hers was a free site someplace, hard to dig out even with a search for the name - it's not in the page title or description. And the heading was a graphic, not text. She was nice and I believed her. Also, I did find some information to support what she was saying.
I have the words still in a paragraph because it's relevant, but removed it from the page title and H1, and replaced it with the keyword phrase under which it's now found - which turned out fine.
Now I don't see how such a generic common usage phrase like plain vanilla can possibly be trademarked, but I complied with her request and wrote her back nicely.
If this other company has had no web presence, how would a person dig out information on whether they existed, with no trademark registration - easy to check out at the government patent site, which has a searchable database for trademarks:
However, how could someone check for the existence of such a company in every state? I also wonder if they could challenge a domain name already in business on the net if they had not had their own web site.
I really wonder how valid de facto trademark by reason of usage really is. At the very least, if it's not already done, for starters I would do a formal copyright on the logo graphic for $30 - just to establish some kind of a time frame.
>I don't see how
This is the most dangerous phrase in trademarks. Trademarks are not about logic or fairness -trademarks are turf wars, plain and simple. You can be blind-sided at any given point before, during, or after the process. I've sold one domain to a chemical company that holds trademarks on the name "Albemarle" (also one of England's Lord Proprietors), Albemarle is a widely-used geographic name in the Carolinas, dozens and dozens of small businesses use it in their name, assuming that it can't possibly be trademarked since its the name we call the entire region. Wrong!
The single-most important factor is money, as in how much money are you willing to spend to defend your mark or challenge one you feel is competitive.
The searches of other states and other countries (remember, the web exposes you to international challenges now -I've mainly referencing US trademarks) is part of what you pay for. Searching on websites, the .gov included, will give you only a fraction of the information.
In 1997, I found the best book to be "Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name" from Nolo Press. It was about $30 bucks.
Since that edition came out in 1997, it's _much_ easier to research trademarks because the federal government database of trademarks is on the web at the address Marcia gave above. On the other hand, the .com names complicated the issue tremendously since 1997.
Your problem seems a bit messy with a competitor using the same name on a similar product in "interstate commerce." Sorry to say, but you probably need professional trademark help.
And like rcjordan said, don't be surprised if you find that you are infringing someone else trademark. There's zillions of 'em.
Hope that's helpful.
Just because you have a trademark, don't assume that's the end of it. Back in the 60's or early 70's Ma Bell sued a little firm down in Texas (I think it was TX) -Bell Accounting- for using their bell logo. As it turned out, and much to Bell Telephone's chagrin- Bell Accounting had registered the bell trademark before they had registered theirs. A search (then mostly by hand) had missed it. I believe they paid $5 million to be able to continue to use it for the telephone monopoly.
This happened last year, too. The Masters golf tournament sued someone (Masters.com, I think), they were counter-challenged as to the validity of their own mark. The last I heard, they were in jeopardy of losing it for the golf tournament.