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It is disappointing to see coverage from the media – business media in particular – missing the boat on the significance of trademark protection. Three separate recent articles fail to properly address trademark issues.

  • What’s in a Business’ Name? Potential Pitfalls. (Wall Street Journal) – While it is good that the Journal has run a story about the pitfalls of having a name that conflicts with a competitor and the damage and costs in can have for a new business, the article fails to appropriate advise readers how to avoid such situations. A full clearance search and an immediate application to register the trademark with the USPTO are the best way to buy ‘insurance’ for a new business or brand name.  Instead, the article – waiting until the last paragraph – says: “Finally, if your budget permits, you might consider hiring an attorney with expertise in using trademark databases to gain an extra layer of protection, Mr. Chiagouris says. “Dig deep.””  Instead, it should point out that failing to hire an attorney, failing to conduct a comprehensive search, and failing to file to register the name are equivalent to playing the equivalent with Russian Roulette with a brand – you never know when you might open the mail and find a ‘cease and desist’ letter.
  • How Do You Name a Company? In his Inc. magazine column, Norm Brodsky – whom I admire and enjoy reading – responds to a question from a new business owner choosing a brand name by stating “The name doesn’t matter.”  I couldn’t agree more.  A great name is a foundation for success and for great marketing and becoming a business people talk about, remember, and want to use (what sounds more exciting for lunch, “Flippin’ Pizza” or “The Italian Grill”?). And choosing a bad name – because it generic, not distinctive or not protectable – is just asking for trouble.  If the business does well and  grows and all of sudden is face with a dilemma about changing names and the costs and confusion among customers that brings versus a fight for the name that is likely to be expensive and have an uncertain outcome, all the momentum could be lost quickly. A good name, and a protected name, a quite important to a new business — important to attract customer and important to insure that the name will be protectable and free from disputes.
  • 10 Mistakes that Start-Up Entrepreneurs Make. Again the Wall Street Journal misses an opportunity to point out the critical role intellectual property plays in starting a new business.  The article lists the author’s opinion of the top 10 mistakes start-ups make. Not a word about intellectual property, copyrights, or trademarks. Yet a business launched on the backbone of a bad brand name – or worse yet an infringing one – is risking serious problems and trouble. And a business launched with great ideas and a great brand that fails to protect them from the start and recognize the value of its intellectual property is failing to realize the full value of the I.P. to the company as an asset, and is also potentially opening the door to let others borrow their ideas. Any list of 10 mistakes by entrepreneur should include overlooking intellectual property protection issues.

n the future, I hope to see some articles in business publications that inform business owners and entrepreneurs about the role of trademarks!

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