You Have to Fight for Your Rights to IIIII…PPPP!

Mama e Momo

If a lumberjack sneezes into a Kluunex in the woods, do you think Kleenex® hears? You bet they do, they probably have people who listen for it as it dilutes their protected brand and trademark. When St. Louis blogger, and co-founder of the St. Louis Bloggers Guild, Dana Loesch registered her trademark Mamalogues®, it became a protected brand name and symbol that indicates Loesch has either created or endorsed the associated work or product when that symbol is present. The US Patent and Trade Office reviewed Loesch’s application and agreed that it was a unique claim and recognizes this trademark as belonging to Loesch, and as the sole owner it is her Intellectual Property, especially when it is used in conjunction with parenting related publishing and media. In the year following Loesch’s registration, Genevieve Hinson began a blog about parenting under a strikingly similar URL, Momologue.com.

Adding Water to the Vodka

Trademark dilution is not a new type of infringement issue in the Intellectual Property world, but has become especially salient as web marketing, online publishing, and e-commerce has developed. FindLaw.com states,

“An important part of trademark law is whether two marks are confusingly similar to customers.”

When you apply for a trademark you are responsible for researching and determining that the symbol you intend to register is unique and the USPTO also conducts an investigation to ensure your claim is unique before instantiating the registration and granting the application. When purchasing a URL, you are responsible for making sure that the name you have chosen does not conflict with any registered marks either through direct utilization of a registered trademark or spelling variations that could result in customer (or, in this case, reader) confusion. FindLaw.com recommends a strategy for those purchasing URL’s,

“The way to choose a domain name that satisfies your own marketing needs and doesn’t get in the way of anybody else’s trademark rights is to search as many existing trademarks as possible, spot possible conflicts and then pick a name that’s unlikely to generate a nasty lawyer’s letter.”

It’s similar to when you were in high school and you added water to the vodka (of course, you weren’t drinking it… you were cleaning a wound). Think of a trademark and the associated brand like that bottle of vodka; depending on what’s on the label people expect a certain flavor when drinking it. If an unauthorized substance (the water) appears in the bottle, especially if it looks the same, it misleads the drinker. When the water is detected, the person responsible for adding the water gets grounded. Associating unauthorized products, services, or content with a registered trademark dilutes the consumer’s experience and is an infringement on the trademark owner’s Intellectual Property rights. When naming a venture, you are responsible for making sure you aren’t violating any trademarks, and if you are the owner of a trademark you are responsible for protecting it.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

There are multiple measures you can take and regulations already in place that protect your Intellectual Property. For instance, did you know that anything you create, no matter the medium, is automatically protected by a copyright (©)? That means you have exclusive rights to determine how your work is used. The only exceptions to your copyright protection exists under Fair Use and Public Domain rules. Under Fair Use, your work can be reused for non-commercial and scholarly ventures. In the case of Public Domain rules, a number of decades after your death your work becomes available to the public. For the grey area that exists between completely restricting your work and giving away access without attribution, there is a non-profit organization that exists that will assist you to determine if and which Creative Commons license would suit your needs.

Every blogger is building a brand. If, after doing your research and obtaining an Intellectual Property lawyer’s counsel, you determine that your brand name or symbol is unique to the service you are offering, and you want to protect it, you should claim the trademark your symbol by placing a (™) next to it right away. You can also pay and apply to register your mark with the USPTO. After your registration is accepted, you should place the (®) next to your registered mark, as Loesch did with Mamalogues®. You are then responsible for protecting your mark and detecting infringement, but the registration is enforceable.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. So, everything that I have said is in no way intended to replace the advice of a legal professional. I am just saying is all. There is an entire practice area in the law that specializes in the nuances and rules intended to protect you and you Intellectual Property.

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