The Important Things…..

About 10 years ago I set up a soap business on Etsy and as I was setting it up, I realized I not only did not have a business name, but I knew very little about how to set up a business, how to run a business, or even how to maintain it.  I quickly came up with a name….and went on to have another name about two years after that, until 2015 when I decided to tear it all down and start over.

Rebranding and starting over is no small feat, my friend!  It kicks you in the ass, it makes you question everything you ever did, and it leaves you wondering if your doing the right thing.  I started out making melt and pour soap and selling it on Etsy under Dee’s Home Goods.  I sold soap, candles, lip balm and then, when I changed the name to Barefoot Bath & Body, I started selling body balms and lotion as well.  I offered everything!  From there I went on to see great success and for a while I thought I knew it all.

Fast forward to 2015.  I sat down, took a good hard look at myself, my workshop, and my products.  And you know what?  I realized something.  I hate making lip and body balm.  I hate making candles.  And I especially hate making lotion.  These were the things that sold the best…but I had no love for them.  I was pumping out these products, but the passion was gone.  I had stopped making soap, and soap is what makes me happy.  So…I dropped all the products except the cold process soap.  And then I knew I had to have a new name.  Since I did not trademark Barefoot Bath & Body various forms of that name started popping up all over.  I knew there was a problem when I got a call from a potential wholesale client who mistook my business for a business with a very similar name selling on Amazon.  Not a good thing.

Plaid & Rose was born on April 2015.  I played around with the name for a couple of months and had the name registered online, and at the state level.  And then I took the plunge and began the year long process of having the name Trademarked.  I want you to know that trademarking a name is no small feat…and can cost a bundle of money to get done.  I, however went the mostly DIY route.  This route I really do not recommend unless you know Intellectual Property law.  I don’t know much about it myself, and handed in my name, and my money and waited.  You should also know that once you send out your information to the USPTO(United States Patent and Trademark Office), that your request is not immediately examined.

It was July before an examining attorney looked at my paperwork, and another two months before it was looked at again.  It was November when the mark was published for opposition, and in January 2016, after the mark had passed without any opposition(which, I knew it would not because I had indeed done my due diligence by researching the name before I ever even started the process).  Another two months passed before I received an intent to use request…filled out that form and proved that I had been using the name since June of 2015.  Just the other day I got the certificate in the mail…..my business name is Trademarked!

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I am, of course relieved and overjoyed.  My business?  Well since the rebrand I have cut everything out of my product line up except for cold process soap.  It is my love, it is what I do best, and quite honestly, if you want candles and balms and lotions, I have lots of friends in my industry I will be glad to refer you to.

If you are a small business owner and you are thinking…gosh a Trademark is impressive, but do I really need one?

Um…yes.  And let me tell you why:

  1.  If your business name is even remotely similar to another name, and that other similar name is Trademarked…they will come after you.  Some businesses come down hard, some just let you know they are there and watching you.  Making yourself aware of who is out there with a similar name and then, making smart adjustments and trademarking that name alleviates a lot of tears, time and headaches.
  2. You’re in business.  Plain and simple.  You’re not a hobby, you are a business.  Treat it like a business and protect your name like you do your social security number.

And here are so do’s and dont’s of trademarking…in my humble opinion:

  1. Do:  When you think up your brilliant name, do a google search of it, and check it out on the USPTO website to see if it is already taken…or a very similar variant of your name.  Do your homework ahead of time.
  2. Do:  Hire an IP attorney.  I diy’d my trademark application, but you should not.  Why?  Because you will spend a lot of sleepless nights and finger chewing days of sheer silence from the trademark office.  They do email you when you have passed steps, and if you did something wrong, but they do not send you weekly updates.
  3. Don’t:  settle on a name that is similar to another trademarked name.  Why?  Why would you want to have a name that can be confused with another business?  And I know I speak solely when I state this.  Lots of people will say it is okay to go ahead and secure a name that is similar to another, when it goes uncontested.  But I can tell you, there will come a time when someone will be loyal to your brand, and then see that other similar name out there, and they will be confused.  And, quite possibly that similar name that IS trademarked just might decide to contest your name.  At any time.  You should know that for the first 5 years of your Trademark’s life, it is subject to opposition by anyone who may have been in a coma during the time your Trademark was originally published for opposition.
  4. Don’t:  assume that just because your business has been in the public eye online and in print that your name is protected.  It is true that there is such a thing as the “I was using my name publicly before you so I get to keep it and you don’t”…..but I’ve seen a lot of money and tears shed over this.  Do it right and make it airtight.

Again…this is your business…not a hobby.  Your business.  Water it with your creative love and shower it with a little money and it will thrive and love you back.  And…you’ll be able to sleep at night.

Well this was long and drawn out, but I hope you read all of this in its entirety.  Please keep in mind I am not an IP attorney nor am I a Trademark expert.  I cannot tell you what to do in a trademark situation, I really do encourage you to do your homework and get an IP attorney.  They are there to help you.

To see why my business is Plaid & Rose…click here!