Avoiding Trademark Infringement for Online Course and Membership Site Owners
The YouTube video for this article is located at the end of the article.
Creating a successful online business often involves developing a unique brand that distinguishes your digital courses and membership sites from competitors. However, it's crucial to avoid trademark infringement while building your brand or you risk having to rip out and redo every single instance of the name, logo, tagline, color, etc. that you infringed on.
In this article, I’ll share with you preventative measures to take, resources to use for trademark research, and the potential consequences of infringement.
Preventative Measures for Avoiding Trademark Infringement
Choose a Unique Brand Name and Logo
The first step in preventing trademark infringement is selecting a distinctive brand name and logo. Brainstorm and sketch out ideas that will set your brand apart from the competition. Ensure that your chosen name and logo won't be confused with existing brands in the market. It is also essential to stay quiet during this phase of your branding. Please resist the urge to ask 10,000 of your closest friends in that FREE Facebook group full of fellow entrepreneurs - there are many people there simply to steal ideas, names, and potential domains.
Back in 2012, and based on my years of work in collegiate trademark licensing, I created a branding resource that I named S4 Branding: How to Brand Like a Lawyer based on 4-parts all starting with “S”. The first step is SILENCE. Please, please, please stay quiet with those brilliant new ideas.
Trademark Research Resources
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Database
One invaluable resource for trademark research is the USPTO website. The database allows you to search for registered trademarks and determine if your desired brand name or logo is already in use. Checking the USPTO database should be a priority when selecting a brand name and logo. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not the easiest most user-friendly site and there are ways to narrow your focus when searching.
While you might think this is the first place to begin searching for similar trademarks, I’d recommend starting with a Google Search as it is easier and will often clue you in very quickly to conflicting names. The USPTO also has an article Why Search Similar Trademarks that contains good information.
Google can also be a helpful tool for researching potential trademark conflicts and is the first step I recommend to business owners as they are starting their trademark research. Conducting a simple search can reveal brands with similar names or logos. Be thorough in your search, looking for different variations and spellings of your brand name.
If you're uncertain about your brand's uniqueness or have concerns about the trademark registration process, consider consulting a trademark attorney. These experts can offer guidance, address your questions, and help you navigate the registration process to protect your brand. Like myself, there are trademark attorneys that think like entrepreneurs and will walk hand-in-hand with you to achieve the business result you want - a distinctive brand while navigating the legal aspects.
BIZLEBOX™ has two distinctive ways to help you with deciding whether you need to secure your brand and if the answer is yes, then helping you navigate your way from your trademark application to its approval. The Business Branding Box walks you through exactly how to determine when and if you need a legal trademark. The Trademark Box helps with the application and registration of your brand identifier (name, logo, tagline, color, etc.).
Potential Consequences of Trademark Infringement
Legal Battles and Rebranding
Trademark infringement can lead to severe consequences for your online business. Infringers may receive cease and desist letters, which could result in costly legal battles or force you to rebrand your business entirely. If you commit trademark infringement, you must rip out every single instance of your use of that brand identifier (name, logo, tagline, color, etc.) on your website, lead magnets, videos, audios, podcasts, guides, … if you wrote it, said it then you are redoing it. Just think for a moment - how many places does that mean you have to go back to ground zero? And that’s just the work aspect, the stress of receiving a cease and desist is real and the stress of having to go through the whole process could set you back months.
In some cases, trademark infringement can lead to substantial financial settlements. These financial penalties can hinder the growth and success of your online business, making it essential to avoid trademark infringement from the outset. Now since 2002 when I started working in the field of trademark licensing, I’ve not seen an entrepreneur have to pay excessive infringement fines but all that committed infringement have had to rip out all existence of the brand identifier and start over - that alone cost some $20,000 and more due to the websites they had built, the branding consult coaches they hired, the graphic designer, etc.
Investing time and effort in researching and selecting a unique brand name and logo can help protect your online business from trademark infringement. By focusing on building a distinctive brand, you'll be able to concentrate on delivering exceptional digital courses and membership experiences to your customers.
BIZLEBOX™ is here to help offering reliable easy-to-use business and legal tools to help entrepreneurs, like you, protect their most important assets: time, money, and relationships. If you are an entrepreneur who seeks a profitable and legally secure business while making an impact and living fully on your terms - take a look at BIZLEBOX™.