You may think that trademarking your brand early on is overkill but after spending time creating and establishing your supplement brand the last thing you want is for a competitor to use it.
Protecting your brand is a crucial step most people overlook.
If you believe your brand will be successful then taking the time and expense to trademark your logo and brand is essential. At the end of the day the expense of doing so is not that high considering the cost of setting up a business.
In this article I look into the options available for protecting your brand with trademarks as I follow these steps myself to register my own trademarks. There is also a cheap and effective way to monitor your brand to keep on top of potential infringements.
- 1 What is a Trademark, Exactly?
- 2 How to Register a Trademark
- 3 Trademark Searches
- 4 Types of Trademark Registrations
- 5 Online trademark services
- 6 Results From Trademark Searches, YIKES!
- 7 What Trademarks Have I Registered?
- 8 When Can I Use the TM?
- 9 Brand Alerts and Monitoring
- 10 The Bottom Line
What is a Trademark, Exactly?
Firstly, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by trademarking as there are few terms that may be used interchangeably.
A trademark is any unique word, symbol, name or device used to identify and distinguish the goods of one seller from the goods of another. John Williams
How to Register a Trademark
The first step is to search the trademark database in your desired geographic location to check it isn’t already registered.
This is straight forward to do thanks to websites like Trademarkia.com. You simply enter the name into the search box on the home page and they return the results from the USA, EU, Canada, Australia, China and India databases.
In the US trademarks are registered into ‘classes’ for either products or services that are categorised by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The classes are numbered and one or more can be selected when looking to register a trademark.
LegalZoom website do a great job in listing the classifications in their Trademark glossary.
The USPTO charge a fee of $225 – $275 for registering each class.
Check out the Overview of USPTO fees.
The first step in registering a trademark is to conduct a trademark search, this ensures it isn’t already in use by someone else. Although trademark searches can be conducted through online databases this will only show up marks that are identical and not similar (for example, I did a quick one on Trademarkia.com first to ensure my brand wasn’t already in use), It is the similar word and design marks that could cause a problem in the future.
It’s worth noting too that design marks are more labor intensive for trademark searches as they require more preparation.
With these points in mind I used a USA based Attorney to help conduct a trademark search and to register my trademarks.
Types of Trademark Registrations
When registering a trademark you can either register the ‘wordmark’ (e.g. the name), ‘logo’ or both the word mark and logo.
Word mark definition:
Wordmark is a term now used to refer to a specific design for the written name of an organisation, company or product, intended to aid recognition and provide what is often described as a graphic identity (i.e. the word(s) as a visual symbol of the organisation or product). Unlike other kinds of logo or trademark, wordmarks usually contain text only.
Design/icon mark definition:
The stylized logo (also known as a design mark) is used to register words and/or letters having a particular stylized appearance, a mark consisting of a design element, or a combination of stylized wording and design. In other words, a design mark can protect a logo with or without words.
Still confused about trademarks?
There is a great video that outlines the facts about trademarks on the USPTO website:
Online trademark services
Search online for trademark services and you can find some do-it-yourself sites that market a relatively pain-free way to register trademarks. One of the most visible services is Trademarkia.com.
At first, I began registering with them but was unclear on a few points and wanted to speak to someone first. It is possible to schedule a quick 15-minute call but due to the time zone (I am 16 hours ahead!) and the fact that I would need to wait 2-3 days for the call, I decided to go with another company.
Trademarkia.com looks to be a fairly big outfit and I was also keen to go with a smaller company that would offer me better service and a more hands-on approach.
So after a few more Google searches I stumbled upon OnlineTrademarkAttorneys.com and shot over a quick email to them arranging to have a call the next morning.
They seemed really on the ball as they emailed me back within a few hours and I got to speak to Alex Summers, Esq the next morning. She very clearly outlined the process and asked to look at the logo and wordmark I was looking to register.
Alex established that in her opinion both the logo and wordmark were unique enough to start work on their search and then filing the trademark.
I was impressed with the service and therefore signed up and paid the fee of $475 and they started work on the searches.
Results From Trademark Searches, YIKES!
Within a few days, I received the results back from my first trademark search, and the results were not good!
The trademark lawyers recommended not using the name I had chosen. You know, the one I had bought the domain names, logo and label designed, and spent time on the website too.
I was in a little bit of shock, to be honest.
However, after a few hours I was relieved that I have gone to the expense of doing a trademark search. The last thing you want is to find your trading and selling your supplement to then receive a cease and desist order due to trademark infringement.
This was a set back for sure, but thankfully the supplement labels had not been printed yet!
I spent time brainstorming brand names and ensuring the domain name was available too. After selecting another potential name, I asked the trademark lawyers to check this too.
Whilst the feedback was not a resounding yes, which would have been great, they said because of the name chosen it may be fine, and depends on how rigid the Trademark Examiner on the day, whether there are any issues.
The odds seemed good though and worse I decided to use this name.
I’ll be honest with you, choosing a brand name for your supplement can be tricky and it can take some time to identify a name that works, can be trademarked and the domain name is available.
What Trademarks Have I Registered?
After speaking with the attorney I went with registering just the word mark only in one class (005) with Online Trademark Attorneys. So – along with the USPTO government fee – I was looking at $750 to register my trademark.
I can register the icon/logo at a later date – the fee for doing so is slightly less than $475 – but at the moment the more important part is to protect the brand name.
When Can I Use the TM?
The trademark process can take 6 to 12 months during which my application is pending.
When the trademark is pending you can use the abbreviated ‘TM’ and only when registered can you apply the registered symbol ‘R’.
It is prudent to be aware of the different rules in place for each country on the usage of the TM and R abbreviations, some countries require the trademark to be registered before being able to use either abbreviation.
Always check the country in which you’re selling before making unchangeable and potentially expensive design choices – such as placing an R abbreviation next to your logo – when you haven’t secured permission.
Brand Alerts and Monitoring
It’s a good idea to stay on top of where your brand is being quoted online. In most cases this should be okay but there will certainly be some negative comments about your brand along the way.
Being proactive by being aware of brand mentions and reaching out to correct or deal with these makes sense, especially considering how quickly news can spread virally.
The aim is to deal with any negative comments and resolve any issues from unhappy customers, but we all know that you cannot satisfy everyone ALL the time. At least being aware of how your brand is being talked about can help you to be prepared.
So how do you monitor brand mentions?
There are a number of ways to monitor your brand online and here are some of the popular free and paid for services.
This is a free trial provided by Google that allows you to identify a phrase and will alert you whenever Google finds a mention on a new page.
There are a number of potentially helpful uses of Google Alerts from not only tracking your brand name mentions online but to monitoring keywords – or even competitors!
Although it may not be particularly sophisticated it works pretty well and the bonus is it is completely free.
Google Search Operators
For those who are keen to dabble with Google’s more advanced search functionality, you can find brand mentions using refined web searches.
Here is an example – if you’re looking for all mentions of ‘Acme Super Greens’ on social media you can use
intext: Acme super greens -acmesupergreens.com -twitter.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -youtube.com
* It should go without saying my Super Greens brand is not ‘acme super greens’.
This is a paid-for service that monitors and tracks your brand anywhere online.
There are a few ways this service can be used – competitive analysis, social media monitoring, influencer marketing, PR and media monitoring, and crisis management.
Mention allows you to find out quickly so you can respond instantly on your integrated social media platforms from anywhere in the world with their mobile app.
Prices start at $29 per month per user on their ‘solo’ package and rise to $99 per month for three users for the ‘starter package’.
I have mentioned Ahrefs before as a useful tool when researching my Super Greens competitors. To recap, this is a competitor analysis tool for search traffic and allows you to research your desired market sector or niche.
They have a feature called ‘content analysis’ which is like a mini search engine within their platform that searches their database of over one billion web pages. The chances are that if your brand has been mentioned on a website that gets reasonable traffic if will appear somewhere here.
I used the term ‘super greens’ to find content with this term and as you can see there are 37,996 results in Ahrefs database – not too shabby!
The Bottom Line
The process for registering your trademark is very straightforward these days and for peace of mind, it makes sense to protect your business.
Whilst registration may be straight forward using an attorney, selecting a brand name that is available to the trademark can be more difficult. I would definitely recommend selecting a few possible names, that have domain names available too, and then check them with a trademark attorney BEFORE proceeding with any design work.
I wanted to speak directly to an attorney and so used onlinetrademarkattorneys.com and was very pleased with their service. Using this approach may have cost 100-200$ USD more but I have the peace of mind knowing I sought advice and made the right decisions.
You can proactively monitor your brand online using alerts from either Google (free) or dedicated services such as Mention. I have used both with my brand. I intend to use Ahrefs.com as well to discover new content which could be used for either researching ideas or checking brand mentions.
With the trademark process underway, I am reassured that this should give some protection for my brand.