From Freelancing to a Start-Up – Protecting Your Brand Name

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(Disclaimer: We are not attorneys, everything you read below is based on our personal experiences and opinions and should not be taken as legal advice. We suggest that anyone starting a new business do their own research to find out what licensing, permits, tax documents, etc. they may need. We also suggest that you consult with a licensed small business attorney to ensure you have everything in order.)

Protecting Your Brand

It’s easy to lose track of things when you’re self-employed, freelancing, or a new entrepreneur. However, there is going to come a time in your business when you need to expand more, take it more serious, and step into the realm of new start-up companies. When doing this, it’s essential that you have all your ducks in a row before rolling out the red carpet (Especially on a local brick-n-mortar level). It should be noted that most online businesses also need special licensing, permits, tax documents, etc.

I know I have a lot of readers outside the United States and apologize that I don’t have more information for each of your countries regions for protecting your brand. You are going to want to contact both; Your local government agency that handles licensing businesses and a business attorney specializing in your local region for more information.

Remember:

  • If you don’t actively protect your brand, someone else can take it from you.
  • If you don’t take your brand seriously, why should anyone else?™

I have provided some insight into some of the things you’re going to need on your journey to protect your brand name/image in the U.S.

Secure Your Brands Domain Name

Hurry up and register your brand name, preferably in .com. If the .com is not available, be prepared to shell out some investment capital to acquire it from whoever owns it or choose an extension other than .com. It should be noted that while other extensions can still help with your brand identity, .com domains are the most sought after and globally known. If you don’t know what a domain is or how to obtain one, I suggest the following resources/services:

  • NamePros – The world’s largest and most active domain investors community in the world. NamePros is packed with helpful information, active discussions, educational materials, and even a marketplace where members buy/sell/trade domain names.
  • Godaddy – One of the world’s most popular domain registrars and hosting companies. You can register your domain with Godaddy (if it’s not taken yet) and even get hosting at the same place for convenience.

Designing your Brand/Logo

Read the article I wrote on Feb 19, 2017 about branding your brandable.

Get Legal Advice

That’s right, you’re going to want to consult with a small business attorney and possibly an IP/TM Attorney (Unless you find one that does both) to make sure your business has all of it’s “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed (E.g. If you have a unique business plan do a patent search before you put the idea on the market and if possible a patent application, Trademark(s) (and trade dress – look and feel of your product) searched, Trademark Application(s) filed, Terms of Service, privacy policy, Licenses, permits, tax documents, employment agreements including trade secret elements for what you do not want the general world to know as well as non-competes and confidentiality agreements, etc.). Below, I have provided a few business attorneys that offer a free consultation. You can try one I referenced below or you can research one in your local area.

  • Stevan Lieberman – is a Washington D.C. based attorney who spends most of his professional time focused on prosecution (applying for Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights), litigation in intellectual property law, especially domain name / Internet law and Internet Technologies and contractual issues. He has also been instrumental in other aspects of the domain name industry; including both registrar & registry setup and management, foreign corporation setup, participation in the Internet Commerce Association as well as representation of numerous members of the community on various matters
  • Karen J. Bernstein is a New York intellectual property attorney.  Her practice focuses on filing trademark, copyright, and patent applications.  Her firm also litigates cases in federal court and domain name disputes in arbitration.  The firm also has a patent attorney on board with a computer sciences degree.  Karen is a member of the ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency and is on the Working Group for Subsequent gTLD procedures.  She is known for successfully defending Johnsons.com against Johnson & Johnson, among other domain name disputes.
  • LegalZoom – The nation’s leading provider of online legal document services and legal plans to families and small businesses. The company was founded by top talents in law and technology to make the benefits and protections of the law accessible and affordable. LegalZoom is not a law firm. LegalZoom provides self-help services and a legal plan where customers have access to attorneys at a fixed monthly fee. The company is headquartered in Glendale, California, with regional headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Assumed Name Certificate

Read the article I wrote on  Apr 03, 2017 about Assumed Name Certification.

Licensing and Permits

Every state/city/county in the U.S. can vary slightly on these, so be sure you do your research (Example: For me, since I’m in Texas, I started my research here: Texas Secretary of State). The business attorney you consult with can more than likely point you exactly where to go for your area.

It’s vital that you have the proper licenses, permits, tax documents, etc. to comply with the local/state/federal laws, but also to help protect your brand. Every government document that you sign regarding your brand is added protection, showing that your brand is actively used.

I would like to suggest that those of you reading this working from home freelance style, not to forget that you are operating a business by selling a service, product (Even affiliates), or domain names. This means that you will more than likely be subject to some sort of licensing and tax documentation requirements at a minimum. Make sure that you protect yourself and get everything filed that needs to be. It’s better to be safe than sorry later.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

If you need a CPA (and every company does) then here are a few CPA’s that can help with your personal or business accounting and tax needs.

  • Anita Ceballos, CPA – ARC notary and tax services – 7676 Hillmont Dr., Houston, Texas, 77040 suite: 128D – 832-740-3033
  • Terrence P. Regan, CPA – Mr. Regan is the managing member of the firm of SRG & Company, LLC Certified Public Accountants, which is a Annapolis, MD public accounting firm originally formed in 1981.

Trademarks

When it comes to protecting your brand, you’ll want to study Trademarks and which one works best for you, your company, and your products/services. There are 3 different types of Trademarks to consider as you build your new start-up.

A mark may be designated by the following symbols:

  • (the “trademark symbol“, which is the letters “TM” in superscript, for an unregistered trademark, a mark used to promote or brand goods) and (which is the letters “SM” in superscript, for an unregistered service mark, a mark used to promote or brand services). Both of these may be used at any time so long as you are claiming the mark as that which represents your company in association with the goods and or services provided by your company.
  • ® (the letter “R” surrounded by a circle is for a federally registered mark), You may obtain a federally registered mark when you are using the mark in interstate or inter-latta commerce.  If you are only in a single state do not forget to register your mark with the state, but only after you have done a trademark/service mark search using a reputable attorney.  Remember, the easiest way to kill a small business is to get into a lawsuit, so make very sure that you are not stepping on someone else’s toes.

To learn more about Trademarks, search for existing registered trademarks, filing procedures, and cost, I recommend you go straight to the Government source at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO / TESS) to do a knock out search.  For those not in the U.S., check with your local government and everyone should consult with an IP/TM attorney.

Social Engineering Your Brand safely

Read the article I wrote on Apr 12, 2017 about what NOT to do with your brand.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of other ways to protect your brand, however, all the above information should help get you moving in the right direction. Your brand is the first step and most important aspect of your business venture. You need to protect it at all costs.

I must reiterate;

Remember:

  • If you don’t actively protect your brand, someone else can take it from you.
  • If you don’t take your brand seriously, why should anyone else?™

Keep the above two things in mind as you build up your new start-up empire and you’ll be a step ahead of a lot of your competition.

Good luck and happy business building!

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Eric Lyon

Entrepreneur, Freelancer, Domain Investor/Developer, Brand Designer, Brand Manager, Founder of Scorpion Agency™, Community Administrator at NamePros, And A Father.

Since 1996, Eric has managed companies with 240+ employees, online communities with over 1 million members, attended numerous industry related events/conventions and has personally worked with start-ups, personalities, small mom and pop businesses, corporations, freelancers, news outlets, and a variety of domain investors one-on-one from all over the world. That equates to a lot of years behind the scenes with his fingers firmly on the pulse of multiple industries.

LinkedIn: Profile/Resume - FaceBook: Profile/Social

Eric Lyon

Entrepreneur, Freelancer, Domain Investor/Developer, Brand Designer, Brand Manager, Founder of Scorpion Agency™, Community Administrator at NamePros, And A Father. Since 1996, Eric has managed companies with 240+ employees, online communities with over 1 million members, attended numerous industry related events/conventions and has personally worked with start-ups, personalities, small mom and pop businesses, corporations, freelancers, news outlets, and a variety of domain investors one-on-one from all over the world. That equates to a lot of years behind the scenes with his fingers firmly on the pulse of multiple industries. LinkedIn: Profile/Resume - FaceBook: Profile/Social