Trademarking questions ... for those of you who have done it !

Hello everyone. I know there are several entrepreneurial types on here, so I thought I'd ask in this group:
Has anyone trademarked a logo or product name using strictly online resources? Or would you recommend going to a local, face-to-face attorney?
Also, let's say my product is named "OnLine Widgets". Would I need to trademark all spellings separately to be protected ? Such as OnlineWidgets, OnLine Widgets, OnLine-Widgets, On-Line-Widgets, OnLineWidgets, etc ... ?
Thanks for any and all advice ! JCD
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Go to an attorney. That's what they're there for.

That's why you need to talk to an attorney. There's an old saying that you get what you pay for; in the case of free advice on the web, it turns out you might get a whole lot less than you paid for: not only might it be worthless, it might get you sued and cost you a fortune.
You're asking legal questions. You need to ask them of a legal expert, not of a bunch of geeks on usenet. A competent attorney costs you $100-$200 per hour, and is incredibly cheap at the price.
--
Joseph J. Pfeiffer, Jr., Ph.D. Phone -- (505) 646-1605
Department of Computer Science FAX -- (505) 646-1002
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Thanks for the advice. Kind of what I suspected ! JCD
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Pogo wrote:

FYI, for the folks who suggest self-patenting or self-trademarking, your protection is only as good as your search (and for patents, the wording of your patent). Often it's boils down to having a "feel good" piece of paper that, when it comes time for litigation -- which is what a patent or trademark is ultimately for -- is not even worth the paper it's printed on. IOW, you could go into court with your pants down. Besides embarrasing, it is extraordinarily expensive.
-- Gordon
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Pogo wrote:

trademark all spellings separately to be protected ? Such as OnlineWidgets, OnLine Widgets, OnLine-Widgets, On-Line-Widgets, OnLineWidgets, etc ... ?

You need an attorney. You can do some of the legwork to save the costs of the search, but an on-line only search would in itself not be deep enough. What's not online can fill libraries of books, warehouses of Yellow Pages, ... you get the idea.
Not legal advice but you don't trademark different spellings. You register a mark for your product or service. If someone uses a different spelling or typo to try to take advantage of your mark, this might be trademark infringement and you have some extra ammunition to take the person to court. Ford doesn't need to trademark "Frod" -- white letters in a blue oval -- to protect itself.
Like patents, having a trademark simply gives you an advantage in court. If you don't have the inclination or finances to sue someone, a trademark is an expensive trinket.
Again, not legal advice.
-- Gordon
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Thanks for the advice, Gordon! Pretty much what I thought! JCD
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trademark all spellings separately to be protected ? Such as OnlineWidgets, OnLine Widgets, OnLine-Widgets, On-Line-Widgets, OnLineWidgets, etc ... ?
It's quite tricky when you come to the online world... you may have a trademark in one country but it may not apply else where. Certainly a UK Trade Mark only applies in the UK and the advice from The Patent Office for international recognition :-
" * apply direct to the Trade Mark Office in each country
or, using a single application:
* apply for an International Trade Mark (for certain countries throughout the world ). * apply for a Community Trade Mark . (for protection in Europe ) or
Both these single application systems cover many countries including the United Kingdom and offer a number of other potential benefits, including:
* less to pay; * less paperwork; * lower agents' costs; * faster results; * easy application "
check here http://www.patent.gov.uk/ under Trade Marks....
regards, colin
--

www.minisumo.org.uk

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Pogo wrote:

Do it online. The Nolo Press book. "Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name" is helpful. I have two trademarks I filed myself, with another one in process. There's even a discount for filing online. The USPTO's form system guides you through the mechanics of the process.
This works well if you have a well-chosen trademark distant from others. If you're not capable of coming up with a word or symbol that's clearly distinct, you may need a lawyer.

Yeah, you definitely need to read the book.
                John Nagle
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John Nagle wrote:

Let me second John's recommendation. Do not go near a lawyer until you have done some preliminary investigation. The books published by Nolo Press are an excellent place to start.
-Wayne
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

I'll just repeat this one last time and let it go, because I think it's important: Trademarks (and patents) are not just for the owning unless you merely want the certificate as a conversation piece, and intend never to challenge an infringer. In that case file away.
They are for LITIGATION. In a court of law. Against seasoned IP attorneys. If you expect to pursue litigation if the need ever arises, it's a really bad business decision to do this without a lawyer.
I read James' post as filing for the trademark based on online resources alone, not just the initial search. You can do to the uspto.gov site and do a cursory search of trademarks.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Gordon:
I basically agree with you -- trademarks and patents are only useful if you have deep pockets to hire lawyers to litigate. This is why you want to read up on the topic *before* even thinking about seeing a lawyer. Indeed, for most people, after they do the research, will conclude that it is not worth it.
Unfortunately, if you go to a lawyer that specializes in intellectual property law as an occupation and ask them, s/he may not be quite as honest about the topic.
-Wayne
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

Ah, well, this is a different subject. The rationalities of whether to apply for trademarks or patents in the first place are one thing. But John replied (to which you appeared to have agreed) regarding self-filing. IMO, this unnecessarily adds risk to your success at litigating the matter if/when the time comes. If you're going to file a legal document aimed at protecting your investment, involve a lawyer whose specialty it is. Self-filers tend to never have litigated their IP portfolio, and if they do, swear to use lawyers in the future.
Again, if you never appear in court to argue your intellectual rights, it doesn't really matter who files and searches the thing. Have grandma do it.
IANAL, as you probably know!
-- Gordon
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Hmmmmm ... Reading through your replies to this post (and many thanks to ALL, by the way!) it occurs to me that I can state that my reason for trademarking was primarly to *discourage* someone else from closely copying the designs I have come up with *and* calling them by similar names and logos for marketing purposes. And thanks to Gordon for pointing out the uselessness of having a patent or trademark if you don't have the funds to enforce it.
My other reason for posting on this newsgroup was to get a good sampling of how, where & why I should start the process from those that I figured had been down the same road. I would especially be interested in any first-hand success and/or horror stories.
After some consideration, I may just have my cat do the trademark search ... unless he starts demanding fresh tuna in return for his professionally fuzzy advice.
But seriously folks, this thread has really helped me to reconsider and redefine what I want to do with regards to this issue. Many thanks as always! I definitely feel more enlightened about the subject! JCD
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Pogo wrote:

Trademarks and patents are completely different. Patents require complex drafting. But trademark applications are just forms to fill out. Online forms, even. The only real choices you make are the trademark itself and in what areas you want to claim trademark coverage. The application is reviewed (the USPTO likes to check Nexis, incidentally), but you don't typically interact with the examiner.
Trademarks have a number of uses. For one thing, they're useful if you have a domain name, because ICANN's dispute resolution procedure defers to trademarks.
I use lawyers when filing patents (I have three issued and one in process), but trademarks (I have two registered and one in process) are so easy now that I do them online.
                    John Nagle
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Good info, as always John, since the trademark I have in mind is closely related to the online branding I have in mind. Thanks!
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Pogo wrote:
[snippage]

> thanks to ALL, by the way!) it occurs to me that I can state that > my reason for trademarking was primarly to *discourage* someone > else from closely copying the designs I have come up with *and* > calling them by similar names and logos for marketing purposes. > And thanks to Gordon for pointing out the uselessness of having > a patent or trademark if you don't have the funds to enforce it.
I am not a lawyer, but...
To *discourage* people, do the following;
1) For trademarks: A) Put the symbol tm with a circle around it next to the word or mark you care about. Your best bet is to have a word that is not in the dictionary; indeed, if it is a concatonation of two "words", it is best if neither word is in the dictionary. Example -- "RoboBrix". B) If you notice somebody using your "trademark" in a way that you do not like, i) read a book on trademarks, and ii) write a letter asking them to stop. Do not     skip step i), because there are legal and legitmate     situations where a competitor can use your trademark     (e.g. "the {competitors product} is compatible with     {your trademarked product}(tm)".) C) Consider asking the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to register your trademark since it is neither expensive nor difficult to do so. 2) For copyrights: A) Place the phrase "Copyright (c) by {your name}. All rights reserved." on every document. Whenever possible use the c with a circle around it instead     of the three character "(", "c", ")". 3) For patents: A) Place the term "patent pending" in your documentation     and web site. Actually, applying for a patent is not necessary to *discourage* people.
The above recommendations are only for *discouraging* people. In many cases you have to do much more to succesfully *litigate*.

> sampling of how, where & why I should start the process from > those that I figured had been down the same road. I would > especially be interested in any first-hand success and/or > horror stories.
The process starts by obtaining a book on the topic of intellectual property and reading up on. Nuf said.
There are plenty of horror stories out there. The recent Blackberry patent squabble comes to mind.
[snippage]
-Wayne
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

That's a criminal offense under federal law. 35 USC 292:
"(a) Whoever marks upon, or affixes to, or uses in advertising in connection with any article, the words patent applied for, patent pending, or any word importing that an application for patent has been made, when no application for patent has been made, or if made, is not pending, for the purpose of deceiving the publicShall be fined not more than $500 for every such offense."
(b) Any person may sue for the penalty, in which event one-half shall go to the person suing and the other to the use of the United States."
Worst case, each instance of the product is a separate offense.
                John Nagle
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John Nagle wrote:

John:
I was unaware of that important little factoid. So I will now officially recommend to people that they not put the pharse "patent pending" in their documentation unless they have actually submitted a patent application.
Having said that, I'm sure plenty of people put the phrase "patent pending" in their documentation when in fact they have no such patent application in process. Alos, I'm sure lots of patents get rejected and people do not take the time or effort to go back through their existing documentation and remove the offending phrase.
Given that the maximum exposure is $500 per offense (i.e no jail time, just a fine), someone could rightly conclude that putting one or two such references into their documentation may be worth the risk. (Please note, I am not suggesting that anybody do so, I am just pointing out the possibility.)
Anyhow, I have spent more than enough time on this general thread. I'm going back to work on robotics.
-Wayne
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

John is correct that it's not legit to claim a mark, patent, or patent pending unless it's actually so. I am also sure a lot of people use these ruses and risk the penalties, as they are a pittance compared to the potenbtial benefit.
While I certainly advise reading up on the subject, doing your own research, etc., I also recommend using an attorney to file patents AND trademarks. The trademark search lists the attorney of record. Frankly, if I saw WidgetsRUs (or whatever) was self-filed, I would pretty much guess the person has neither the resources nor the inclination to litigate an infringement. When it has a lawyer's name there it lends credence that the claimant means business.
-- Gordon
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I *was* aware of that little tidbit, but good to point out, none-the-less.

Now *that* is a really good point! Thanks yet again.
Well, time to let some of the words from this thread sink in, gel for a while, and see what happens.
Thanks again to everyone. JCD
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