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Do I Really Need to Trademark My Blog, Website, or Podcast?

So you’ve been inspired by some of the Internet gurus and their success. You read and listen to Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income, John Lee Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire, Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers, Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness, Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Workweek, and the many others. They have inspired you to start your own blog, website, or podcast. You’ve chosen the name and you’ve either launched or you’re about to launch.

But what about protecting the brand name that you’ve chosen for your blog, website, or podcast? Do you really need to file a trademark application? After all, you’re just starting out and you’re on a very tight budget. You want to see if your blog gains any traction and actually turns into anything before you spend money on it. Surely, a new blogger or podcaster doesn’t need to worry about intellectual property issues and trademarks, right? Wrong.

The short and simple answer is this: if you are even a little bit serious about your blog, website, or podcast (i.e., you are trying to create a business, not just personal blog about your dog), then file a trademark application to protect the name you’ve chosen as your brand. Otherwise, bad things can happen that will cause you much more grief than the amount of time and money you would spend to start off on the right foot.

The Blogging Superstars Do It

As a blogger, your start-up costs are relatively low—especially compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar business. And you don’t have much in the way of legal expenses. At the beginning, there are usually only two legal tasks on your plate: (1) forming a business entity for your business (a corporation or limited liability company) and (2) clearing and protecting the brand (i.e., trademark) you’ve chosen for your blog. For whatever reason, many new bloggers (even the ones that are serious about their blog, website, or podcast) fail to take any steps to legally protect their brand. This is unfortunate because—if the blog, website, or podcast becomes successful—the brand is often the blogger’s most valuable and important asset. Sophisticated bloggers and podcasters know this and register their brands with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as evidenced by some examples below.

Pat Flynn does the trademark thing:

Smart Passive Income Trademark

Ramit Sethi does it:

Zero to Launch Trademark

Derek Halpern is all in on trademarking:

Social Triggers Trademark

Tim Ferriss trademarked his muse:

4 hour workweek trademark

There’s a reason the ultra-successful online entrepreneurs file trademark applications to register their brand. They realize that their brand is the most important intellectual property asset they own. Your brand is how the consuming public identifies or recognizes you, your company, and your products and services. The public comes to trust you through your brand. It’s how they find you. The large Fortune 50 companies know this. Just take a look at the monetary value they ascribe to their brands: Top 20 Valuable Brands. Coke’s former CEO famously remarked that, if all of Coke’s physical assets were destroyed, it could easily rebuild the company based on the strength of the Coke trademark alone. Your blog, website, or podcast won’t reach Coke’s astronomical value, but if you develop a thriving business, your brand will likewise develop into an invaluable asset. And the effort and cost to protect it correctly from the outset is minuscule in comparison.

First, Clear Your Blog Brand By Performing a Trademark Search

If you have not launched yet or you’ve just started your blog, it is worth clearing your trademark to make sure that it is available for you to use. In other words, make sure that you are not infringing somebody else’s trademark. I’ve already written a detailed blog post on how to do that here: Perform a Trademark Search for Your Blog Brand.

Second, Register Your Blog Brand Right Away – It Is Not That Expensive

After you have cleared your trademark, it is time to protect it by filing a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Even if you have not started your blog, you should reserve your trademark application by filing an intent-to-use trademark application. If you wait until you are up and running with your blog, you are taking a chance that someone else starts using your mark (or a very similar one) before you, thereby potentially cutting off your ability to use or register your mark. This could negate weeks or months of work on your part—forcing you to choose a new brand, register a new domain name and social media handles. This can be a particuarly bitter pill to swallow if you are already enamored with the brand name you’ve already chosen.
All that to save a few hundred bucks? You will kick yourself. So how much does it cost you to register a trademark with the USPTO? If you do it yourself, you’re looking a filing fee of between $275-$325. If you use LegalZoom—a document preparation assistance service, add another $169 to the filing fee. If you want to make sure it is done right, hire a trademark attorney—you can find a reasonably priced trademark attorney, who will file your trademark application for $1,000 or less including filing fees.

Third, Enforce Your Blog Brand by Policing Infringing Uses

The first two steps of clearing your trademark and registering are essential. But after that, you need to think about policing infringing uses. If someone in the marketplace has adopted a confusingly similar trademark or logo, it’s up to you to do something about it. Pat has a trademark registration for Smart Passive Income, but it hasn’t stopped this guy from adopting Dumb Passive Income for his blog. Or this guy from copying his podcast logo. Enforcement is up to the trademark owner. While the logistics of trademark enforcement are beyond the scope of this blog post, there’s an article on Problogger that discusses the issue. The topic will be covered here at Trademark Well in a future blog post, but for now, just know that policing your mark is important to preserving the strength of your brand in the marketplace. And even if you are not comfortable with aggressively enforcing your trademark rights, you should still—at a minimum—complete the first and second steps of clearing and registering the brand name for your blog, website, or podcast.

About the Author

Bruno Tarabichi

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