Trademarks. You probably thought they were for giant corporations or brick-and-mortar businesses, not your art career.
But, consider this: what if another artist starts selling their work, quickly gains popularity—and they are using the same exact business name as you? This would be extremely confusing to potential buyers, not to mention what that means for the value of your pieces. It doesn’t seem fair to anybody.
That’s how trademarks were born. While copyright laws protect your artwork, trademark laws protect your business by making sure no one else can use that name to sell art. Your brand doesn’t get diluted by similarly named businesses, and customers are able to find you without any confusion.
That’s why it’s important to register your art business name as a trademark if you want to protect the longevity of your business. Who knows if someone out there might also be using your business name? It's happened before. And, if that happens to you, you will have to spend extra time and money changing your sites and marketing materials, possibly fighting legal action, and ultimately confusing art customers.
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up a few things you should know about the process of registering your trademark.
Do a Comprehensive Search Beforehand
The very first step of registering a trademark should always be checking the Trademark Electronic Search System database to make sure someone else hasn't already registered the mark in your category.
Why? If a “likelihood of confusion” can be established between your name and a registered or pending trademark, then your application will be denied. This means you can kiss your registration fee goodbye, and you’ll end up having to submit a whole new application with yet another costly registration fee.
So, do yourself a favor and research your potential name as much as possible. Remember, even trademarks that are too similar or generic can cause your registration to be denied.
Be Prepared With the Proper Documents
Before you register, there are a few components of the application you should be aware of explains Art Law Journal.
For instance, you will need to include proof of ownership, or a verified statement that you believe you are the owner of the mark you want to be registered, as well as your written consent if you will be using your own name as part of the trademarked name.
You’ll also be asked about your basis for filing. Use “actual use” if you are already using the name for your art business or “intent-to-use” if you haven’t started selling yet. Filing for actual use will require images of your work or even advertising materials with your name already in use, along with the date it started being used in commerce. Intent-to-use requires a good faith statement about your plans to use the name.
Furthermore, you may be required to include a list of the goods and services in connection with which you intend to use the trademark, as well as classify which of the 45 trademark categories your name falls under.
Register Your Trademark Online
Once you are prepared, the final step is to register your trademark. To complete the process, go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's site, www.uspto.gov. The process can be lengthy, lasting several months and requiring multiple steps, and application fees can range from $225 to $400.
Consulting a reputable trademark attorney is the best way to ensure that all of these steps are handled correctly before, during, and after the application process. For more information on the basics of trademarks, visit USPTO’s website.
Ready to get started? Learn how to choose the right name for your art business.