Trademarking your business - is it worth it?
Imagine this; you have decided to create your own business, filled with excitement and ambition, you spend hours if not days getting a pretty logo, creating an Instagram page and networking like a mother fucker to get your name out there and known by all the future clients you plan to bag. You have invested a lot of money and its starting to all come together.
Fast forward a year or even two and you are now a fully booked, self employed bad-ass slaying the game in your local area... then BAM! You wake up one day to check your Instagram and you find you can't log in. Your whole page has gone. WTF?! PANIC!
Well, it turns out that someone, somewhere had the exact same idea as you, either first or at the same time (what are the odds!) and they actually owned the trademark to your business name and claimed it back with no warning. Now you are left with no online platform and a race against the clock to re-brand quickly to minimise damage to your business. Anything branded? Well that's got to go - what a waste of time & money!
Or worse, you receive a letter through the post stating that this trademarked individual is serving you with an immediate order to cease and desist.
Are you having heart palpitations yet? ...Yeah, you're not alone.
Your business name is so much more important than you have given it credit for. It is your entire brands identity and how your clients find you online, it is your baby! Imagine someone taking your baby away because you skipped the important research stage of your business building.
Luckily, my background before lashes was business so I understand and actively protect my entire company legally as well as through a professional and positive reputation online and in my local community. But so many people getting into business have not had that advantage and simply don't know these important steps. It doesn't make you any less of an amazing business person, it just means you weren't as equipped as your trademarked counterpart.
Lets takes some real life examples to prove that what I am writing here is pure fucking gold to your business. In the lash industry there are two perfect examples of this issue, one in the UK and one in the US.
Here in the UK there is an incredibly talented lash king under the new name "Mr Lash", with a celebrity client list we all drool over in the lash industry, which originally boasted an amazing Instagram following of over 25k!! One day, without warning, Mr Lash woke up to find that his entire Instagram account with all his beautiful photos and huge following was gone. This was because once upon a time Mr Lash was "Lash Daddy". Unfortunately however, there was already an established Lash Daddy who provided their trademark in their report to Instagram and *POOF*, Mr Lash's "Lash Daddy" account was no more.
Now we fly over to the states, where there was once a HUGE brand called "Sassy Lashes", which I follow to this day religiously on their lash journey and all they do. They have multiple locations, a huge HQ and academy with warehouses full of stock. Sassy Lashes was run by a lovely couple that actively supported the lash community with so much free content and advice under their established brand. One day they were served a legal notice that someone had already trademarked the name - to add insult to injury the original trademarked individual didn't have a fraction of their empire but astonishingly, after paying $300k+ in legal fees, they lost to this individual and had to surrender everything "Sassy Lashes" that they owned. This meant all social media platforms including their YouTube channel were deleted. Luckily these guys were down but not out and they have now re-branded to LivBay Lash if you want to go check out their incredible story.
The two things Mr Lash and LivBay Lash have in common is they already had such a mammoth & loyal following that meant their recovery was relatively quick, albeit not necessarily painless. This doesn't apply to all of us.
I'm sure you've seen my alcohol induced, fiery red head outbursts on my story regarding blatant disregard for my trademarked name, but behind the scenes, I actively protect my trademark on a daily basis and am actually currently pursuing a legal case against one individual. I will never wake up one day and find the gut-wrenching discovery that my business just got stolen in a blink of an eye, because that is exactly how I imagined it felt for LivBay Lash & many others. I am on the opposite side to this coin as I am the one eliminating anyone using my brand without my permission. It may not make me popular with my opposition but it sure as hell keeps my business safe and i couldn't recommend it more.
So essay over, here is what you need to know; the boring bit.
Don't go to anyone other than the official GOV website unless you want to pay more than double for them to submit a form for you - I swear some of these companies are charging £700 to "deal with all the paper work for you" - there ain't paperwork mmmmk?! You can do it!
Firstly you make your application for your trademark, hypothetically lets use "Lash Candy", you pay the £200 approx to apply for it (depending on the classes you wish to trademark will depend on the final cost) and you select the class from the list of options available that applies to your business, each class is approx £50 added to your application. For example class 3 is the sales of false eyelashes for Lash Candy. Once successfully submitted you then all you can do is hold your breath for 8 weeks while it is being examined. The IPO department of the GOV website will publish the date you made your application under the "Examination" status to allow any opponents to oppose it and have the correct time to do so. The nail biting bit is that in those 8 weeks anyone can oppose it. They can either oppose your trademark name or the services you intend to use it for. If you are both in the same industry they can oppose it for the entire application. If that happens then its down to either an amicable solution or it goes to a tribunal. £££....
But fingers crossed you don't get it opposed, then it will be successfully registered! Job done - phew!
Once it is registered it means that you own the rights to that name and any affiliation with that name either in the UK or internationally depending on which you applied for. If you have no intention of trading abroad, just do the UK it will save you money.
Be aware that the £200+ is for the application not the guarantee of the name & is non refundable.
Make sure on the form you are filling out you are trademarking the words for the name and not just the logo image as this will become void and will need updating if you decide to re-brand your new logo.
There are lots of articles for advice on the GOV website that will cover step by step on everything you need to know about your trademark. But please bare in mind, there are so many companies out there trying to make money from people who don't know what they're doing so just head to the GOV website and you wont go wrong.
Running your own business is filled with so many ups and downs, obstacles and challenges so the peace of mind knowing your brand is protected and safe is priceless. It can happen to anyone at any time in their business, do not let it happen to you.
Now you're trademarked, how do you actively protect it from any infringement, I hear you ask?
Trademark infringement is a minefield so it important to consult a solicitor if you think there is a breach of your trademark.
The definition of infringement is the use of the following:
an identical sign for identical products
an identical sign for similar products or a similar sign for identical or similar products where there is a likelihood of confusion including association
an identical or similar sign even for dissimilar products where the trademark has reputation and the defendant’s use without due cause is detrimental to the trademark
The defendant’s use must be in the course of trade and may be oral, for example, over the radio.
Infringing acts include:
affixing the sign to goods or packaging
offering goods for sale or supplying services under the sign
importing or exporting goods under the sign
using the sign on promotional material
For an additional example, trading as "Lash Kandi" is an infringement of my trademark. "Lassh Candi" or even "Candy Lash".... these are all infringements because they look and sound the same which will cause confusion to my customers and the association of my brand.
When picking a name, I would suggest searching for the ones that have made your potential top 5 into the trademark search engine of the IPO dept of the GOV website. There you will save a lot of time if you have thought of a name that has already been trademarked.
Lastly, and unfortunately not least, just because you have not found the name trademarked in the search engine and you have applied for it, won't mean it is guaranteed to be successful. If it ends up being too similar to another trademark it can be potentially rejected or opposed and eventually could be unsuccessful.
It sounds like a ball-ache I know, but trust me and do the application, cross your fingers and invest the time and money into it because one day you could wake up to an opposition letter from someone who intends to take back what is technically, rightfully theirs - EVEN IF YOU THOUGHT OF IT FIRST but if you cant prove that....bye bye business name and all branded products and equipment that go with it. BIGGER BALL-ACHE!
I hope this helps some of you that want to protect your name but don't know how.
If you simply just can't bring yourself to do it as it seems like too much hassle, the only solace I can give you is that if someone does one day come knocking at your door with a trademark certificate with your business name on it, check the date! If you can prove with plenty of evidence that you were using that name before them and have created a name for yourself in your local community, then you stand a chance of keeping hold of it. But this is not guaranteed and all rests on the decisions made at the tribunal.
Good luck and remember to protect whats yours!
As always, it's all love.
Lash Candy x