269 - My Trademark Debacle
On today's episode of the podcast, I'm sharing a very exciting announcement and also spilling the tea on my recent trademark debacle and what to do if you find yourself on either side of an intellectual property situation.
Two weeks from today I'm re-opening my law firm 🥳 My law firm has been closed for two years now and I've only taken one-on-one consultations in a limited capacity. In re-opening my legal firm I'll be taking more clients for one-on-one legal work, help you with client issues, and help you with tax returns.
Register to attend my law firm launch party on Thursday, February 23 (9am PST) where I'll be unveiling the name of my new law firm, the fun branding, and what I'll be doing in the law firm. Come hang out and be sure to register here.
When it comes to trademarks, I've run into a few trademark issues over the years with the names for some of my programs. If you do your due diligence when it comes to doing your research you shouldn't run into this issue but if you are little haphazard, you might run into this issue. On the flipside, you might have to send people cease and desist letters to stop using some of your intellectual property. Here's how to handle both sides of that coin.
First, it's important to understand the difference between trademark and copyright. Patents and trade secrets are also big buckets of intellectual property but today we are mainly focusing on trademarks and copyrights.
Trademarks protect brand identifiers like names, logos, and even colors and smells like the example of Tiffany blue when it is used in correlation with jewelry and luxury goods.
Copyrights protect works of authorship, mainly anything you write or create, so it could be graphics, pictures, website copy, or copy inside of a book. The title of a book would be a trademark (though you can't really trademark books unless they're in a series but that's a story for another day) and then the actual content itself you would copyright.
For example, my main website - www.bradendrake.com - has been through many iterations, having had two or three URLs before this one. I ended up going with this because it's my name so people already know me as this. Before this, I got a cease and desist for the business name I had been using previously. I remember being on my birthday trip in New York City when I got the email and I got super anxious and stressed. If you've ever gotten a cease and desist letter, I understand what that feels like. If you're feeling guilty sending one because it will cause stress to the person on the other end, know that it's a necessary part of business.
I ended up rebranding and after I changed to BradenDrake.com, I came up with Unf*ck Your Biz which was a tagline for me at the time. I decided to use that name for my first course I created and then named this podcast with the same name (and I had it as my URL for a hot minute). So I got a trademark on file with this name which sometimes surprises people since there's an Unf*ck Your Brain book, but brain and business are not confusingly similar and we don't teach the same thing.
Interestingly, I received what I wouldn't call a cease and desist (which is a legal letter that comes from an attorney) but more so the informal way, which can even be a text message if you know the person. I get this email from a colleague who was representing a client who said that her client wanted me to stop specifically using the acronym UFYB. Looking back, I really don't think I needed to do this, I think I was well within my legal rights to use the acronym. I didn't have a trademark for UFYB and I don't think this other person did either but ultimately I didn't really care and at the time I thought how Unf*ck I spelled as one word so really UYB would be a better acronym anyway. Since I wasn't promoting the course anymore, and I didn't really use the acronym for my podcast or book, I decided to stop using the acronym.
This was a scenario where you get a letter or email and decide if you want to fight it. And sometimes fighting it can be just responding and saying no, I'm not dropping it. And sometimes, they might drop it because they don't have a plan to follow-through if you don't agree or they might actually fight it which can cost you some legal fees so you need to weigh what you think might go on there and whether you really care. If I had planned to invest more into Unf*ck Your Biz being the primary brand mark and that I would use that acronym more I probably would've pushed back more but since I wasn't promoting the course by that acronym, all I had to do was change a few URLs on my website.
My most recent trademark debacle was the rename of the Contract Vault, now my Contract Club. Last year I created the vault and I promoted it all over the place and I got a very polite email from another lawyer over winter break who said they have a trademark to the Contract Vault and asking me to please change the name. This time I really didn't want to but I did go and look up this person's trademark and they had filed their trademark before I created the Contract Vault and their trademark was registered after I created the Contract Vault. If I had done some research at the time of naming it I maybe would have been aware and I could have chosen a different name.
What I share with folks all the time when we're talking about trademarks and IP is that it's not practical for me to go and trademark every single thing I create. For example, I recently rolled out three mini programs on my website covering three areas that I teach and for all I know I may take them down next month and do something else. This is how I like to run my business to keep it fresh. In reality, I'm hoping these things do stick in which case I probably will file trademarks in the next couple of months. If I was advising you, I would tell you not to tell people that on your podcast so someone else doesn't rush to beat you to it.
Since it's not practical to trademark everything under the sun, you need to base it off how pivotal this thing is going to be in your business and how much money you're going to invest into it. I did file a trademark on Profit Rx, my signature program, which is still pending. I have a few tweaks I need to make to respond to some office actions from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I also have a few other trademarks up my sleeve that I do plan on filing.
I have had another not so fun hiccup which I've debated bringing up but here we are. For awhile I was sending folks to one particular trademark attorney and long story short I ended up hearing from multiple people that after months and months, despite having already paid all the fees for this attorney, their trademark had never been filed and they weren't getting responses to emails. This is an extreme example of be careful who you hire. I was hesitant to share this story because I am a trusted resource who trusted them but the point is to do your due diligence and my point for myself is I'm beginning to trust people less and less. Luckily, I ended up working with another attorney last year that I started sending clients to and this attorney has been getting rave reviews.
Because I've had multiple people come to me that I've had to refer out to trademark attorneys, I've decided that I myself would deep dive into trademarks so I bought a course that was made by an attorney for attorneys and my plan is to role trademark services into my new law firm. Eventually I will hire an intellectual property attorney to come into the firm but or now, if you want to learn more about this service and the other services I will be offering in my law firm, come check out our launch party on February 23rd at 9am PST where I'll be talking about the legal services, bookkeeping, tax prep, business formation, contracts and more that we'll be offering.
If you have any questions about trademarks, send me a DM on Instagram @bradenadamdrake and if you loved the episode, as always please share it and give me a tag.