Securing Your Startup Idea

In the competitive world of startups, safeguarding intellectual property (IP) is a critical step toward ensuring long-term success and viability. As emphasized by trademark and copyright attorneys Mike Rodenbaugh and Jonathan Frost, registering trademarks, copyrights, and domain names constitutes a fundamental strategy for building a protective “moat” around a young company’s brand and content. This foundational layer of protection not only secures the startup’s intellectual assets but also provides an affordable entry point for IP safety. While advanced protections like patents and litigation come with higher costs, focusing on basic trademarks and copyrights offers startups a cost-effective method to safeguard their creative and brand assets against infringement.

https://youtu.be/0dLGVi8k7yM

While advanced protections like patents and litigation come with higher costs, focusing on basic trademarks and copyrights offers startups a cost-effective method to safeguard their creative and brand assets against infringement.

The process of establishing IP protections begins with comprehensive trademark searches, utilizing free online databases to identify any potential risks or conflicts. Following the clearance of trademarks for use, startups can proceed with registration filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which start at a range of $1,000 to $1,600. Although not mandatory, obtaining registrations empowers startups with significant legal advantages in combating infringement. Additionally, securing a “.com” domain in conjunction with trademarks furthers this protection, creating a shield even without formal registration. Similarly, for content creators producing books, websites, and other materials, copyright registration acts as a deterrent against unauthorized use, with filing fees under $100 through the US Copyright Office. Such registrations enable startups to enforce their rights, including the issuance of takedown notices for improperly shared content.

Early investment in IP protections enables startups to allocate their resources and focus more efficiently towards validating and scaling their business models, free from the concerns of potential rebranding due to IP conflicts. This preemptive approach not only saves on the costs associated with marketing and growth efforts but also lays a solid foundation for securing essential intellectual property rights. By adopting this strategy, startups can establish critical IP foundations on a budget, positioning themselves to invest in more comprehensive protections, such as global trademarks and litigation, as their businesses grow and their financial resources expand. This balance between cost-effective initial protections and the option for more extensive safeguards later on underscores the importance of a strategic approach to IP protection from the outset.

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  • Read the Transcript

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    📍 📍 You’re listening to Start, Scale, Exit, Repeats, Serial Entrepreneur, Secrets Revealed, Trademarks, and Copyrights. Yes, it’s all about protecting the moat. In the book, Start, Scale, Exit, Repeats, by the way, the same name as the podcast. Uh, in the book, we I have a chapter dedicated towards protecting your I. P.

    Protecting you. And there are a lot of different ways to protect your business. Uh, we’re gonna say we’re really gonna focus on the legal aspects of protecting your business. And we have Jonathan Frost and Mike Rodenbaugh who will be joining us In a few minutes to really talk about what it is you can do as a small business or as a startup to protect your I.

    P., to protect your trademark, to protect your copy. And it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s actually interesting because we have, uh, a chapter in the book, Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat, dedicated to building a moat. It’s absolutely cr Hey Mike, how you doing? Good. Colin, hey. Hey, we’re just going to kick it off with an intro here and, uh, but I appreciate you coming on.

    I know Jonathan’s here. He’s coming on in a minute as well. And uh, it takes a few minutes to get, uh, to get people in the room on this Clubhouse app right now. So, uh, but that being said is also being syndicated in podcast and you might not know this, but if you’re listening to it in podcast, it actually is a live show.

    And we do it every Friday at two o’clock Eastern and we do it on clubhouse on a club called Startup Club. So if you do download the app, check out Startup Club and join us every two o’clock. We have phenomenal speakers who come on like Mike Rodenbaugh and Jonathan Frost. Two lawyers who are going to help us figure out how we can protect.

    Our IP, how we can protect our name, our copyright and all of that. So we’re very excited about that. Mike, it’s going to take a few minutes to really kick off the show as the, as the people come into the audience. Uh, but what are your thoughts about just high level, Mike? What are your thoughts about today’s show?

    And what do you think the listeners are going to get? What are the, what’s the benefit of the listeners are going to get from listening to you today? Hey, Colin. Well, first of all, thanks for inviting Jonathan and I on. It’s much appreciated. Um, I think today the goal really is to just have an interactive conversation about intellectual property.

    Um, I’ve been practicing trademark law for. About 30 years now, and, um, we also focus a lot on copyrights and domain names, um, as other forms of intellectual property that startups certainly should be thinking about as they develop their business plans and, and begin to operate. Um, All too often, you know, lots, lots of times, uh, young companies don’t think about these things until they have a problem.

    And at that point, that problem can be a really bad problem where they have to rebrand, for example. Um, and so we want to try to just give it a primer on what is a trademark and how to, how to go about protecting your brand. And I’m sure we’ll, we’ll have some stories along the way. And obviously, uh, we’re here to answer questions and, and have an interactive dialogue with, uh, anybody who cares.

    Yeah, I know I got a couple of horror stories for you. But before we jump into it, I just want to tee up the show again. You’re listening to Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat. Serial Entrepreneur Secrets Revealed, which is actually a syndicated podcast. As well, if you’re listening into podcast, you can join us live on clubhouse and startup club.

    I do want to announce that today that the book has now hit the number two spot on Amazon for starting a business in the United States. We’re hoping we hit number one today. Uh, the Forbes books did put the book, the ebook on sale for a dollar 99 for 24 hours only. And when they did that, the book shot up right now we’re just behind the lean startup and we’re in front of zero to one.

    You probably know those books. Uh, but we are a brand new book. We just came out October 3rd. And, uh, a couple other things to Mimi and Michelle is that. Yesterday, we had a meeting with Forbes books, and they told us that they underestimated the print demand. We had initially done 1500. They did a reprint of 2000.

    And now they only have 2 weeks of inventory left on the book, and it takes 6 weeks to restock. So they’re going to do some print on demand stuff in the meantime. But, uh, but the fact is, uh, the physical book, Has gotten a lot of attention. It’s not like any book you’ve ever seen before. It literally has 200 callouts, 58 chapters, 30 illustrations, all color coded.

    We designed it for the ADHD entrepreneur. And we’ve been getting a lot of attention for that so far. So they’ve done another reprint. They’re doing of a thousand right now on the hardcover and they’re doing 3000 soft cover right now, um, which will take about six weeks to get to market. But if you, uh, but if you want just, just an ebook, it’s a dollar 99 for 24 hours only.

    We’re excited to see, we hit the number two spot in the United States. For starting a business on Amazon. That is pretty incredible considering it is still a brand new book and we’re literally between the lean startup and zero to one, and then number four is chat GPT millionaire, which I can understand why, because we all want to be a millionaire, but, uh, start scale legs repeat really is a book that tries to crack the code of what it is.

    Succeed and start a business. Let’s I don’t know about you, Colin, but I would call that a quality problem. Okay. Oh, running out of books. Yeah, I know. Yeah. I don’t know, man. But look at our friend, Jonathan is right there below you. Let’s bring him to the stage and make him and Mike a moderator. Let me make you a moderator.

    There you go. Yeah, there you go. So Mike, we’re making you a moderator. Don’t, don’t, don’t screw everything up. We’re making you a moderator here. Okay. Are you sure you want to do that, Colin? I don’t know. Yeah, exactly. We got some people who want to come on stage already. But let me, let me kick it off with the first question.

    Okay. Trademarks. Why are they even important? Like we don’t need them. We can pick a name on go daddy and launch that company. Why is the trademark important? Mike trademark basically, you know, it’s an indicator of source. It’s, it’s a representation of your reputation as a business. It’s what your.

    Consumers come to know you as so, I mean, it’s, it’s as it’s basically like your name for your business. So, I mean, it’s incredibly important because it’s more or less the first thing that any consumer is going to see. Or recognize about your business. Um, in addition to that, in addition to sort of the practical importance and from your perspective, I mean, it helps you create, you know, what you call the moat around your product because it gives you an exclusive right to use that name or any confusingly similar name.

    In connection, not only with the product that you specifically sell, but also with any arguably related products. So trademark, the scope of trademark protection can be fairly broad. depending on the trademark that you choose and whether or not there are already others out there that are using arguably similar marks for arguably similar things.

    Awesome. So we, I promised we’d say, share some horror stories. So here’s one. I was working with a company They spent about two years with the brands built it up probably to about a couple million dollars in revenue was an e commerce brand and then I went to the, um, at the time was called the test database and now I know that they’ve changed that they seem to have eliminated that database and have done a new trademark database.

    Uh, we’ll talk about that in a minute, but this company, uh, had violated the trademark for. Um, for a, a, a fortune 500 company, it was a mattress company, like, I think it was Simmons or one of those mattress companies and they had to rebrand. So the cost to this company. And a couple million dollars in sales and revenue had really invested a lot in their brand was pretty significant because they didn’t look to see if there was a trademark.

    They got the domain name and that surprised me too, is that they had the domain name, but they didn’t actually have the trademark, but then someone else with the trademark, but they got the domain name. But they had to rebrand into a completely different brand. How does a small business, especially one when, you know, we have a lot of people in the audience, Mike, who, who just started their business, they don’t have a lot of budget to go spend a thousand dollars for lawyers right away.

    Like how do we, from the gate get go. How do we, how do we avoid running into a problem like that? Well, I mean, Google is free, right? And the, uh, the U. S. trademark office website is free. As you say, it used the search function that there used to be called tests. They sunsetted that, uh, late last year. Now it’s at, uh, tmsearch.

    uspto.

    And, um, it’s, it’s, it’s quite nice, much better, easier to use interface than it was a few months ago, actually. Um, but the key is to, to actually be as thorough as you can in searching those two tools. Google and the Trademark Office website. Of course, the USPTO is just that. It’s, it’s the United States. So if your business is, has ambitions beyond the United States, then that’s not enough.

    There’s also something called the, the uh, WIPO Brand Database. WIPO, W I P O, which is the World Intellectual Property Organization. And they register trademarks internationally. In pretty much every major country is included in that database. So those are, those are the three things that you want to spend some time searching.

    And not only for the direct name that you’re looking at, but also for variants. Because as I mentioned earlier, it’s anything that’s confusingly similar can come up and rear its ugly head later. And that doesn’t just mean the plurals. That means, you know, substituting any characters in for various characters, you know, throughout your name.

    You gotta, you gotta sort of be clever about it if you don’t want to spend the money to, to You know, pay a lawyer or get a, get a trademark search done, which will cost. I mean, you get a good trademark search done these days for 500 lots of places online, including with our, and with our firm, we’ll, we will do a U S trademark search for 500.

    So it’s, it’s not a huge expense and it gives you a lot of comfort as you start to invest in your business that. You’re not going to have to rebrand later and reinvest in a new name and paying lawyers to fight a fight for you. Um, you know, there could be damages involved if, if you do, if you do it really egregiously.

    So it’s, and I can’t emphasize how important it is to think about these things at the outset of your business because, uh, the problems down the road. Are just exponentially greater than a 500 search costs. All right. I’m going to give a story, Mike. Okay. So full disclosure, everyone. Mike is our intellectual property attorney, him and Jonathan.

    Jonathan worked for us too. Um, it’s, you know, as our, uh, counsel or lead counsel. So we were trying to be cheap, okay? I’m just saying this to everyone. We wanted to launch a new brand, okay? We’re trying to be cheap. We got the domain and we’re thinking, oh, no one has it right now. No one has it. So what is the risk?

    So lo and behold, we’re ready to execute the brand, the marketing, and guess what? Someone three months before us.

    So instead of spending, I mean, I don’t know, Mike, you tell me whatever, a couple thousand dollars to launch it, maybe cheaper, I don’t know, to register it. I’m saying specifically. Now I had to fight it. Okay. That costs a lot, lot, much more money. Excuse me. And it, gosh, and it probably took a year of our time and delayed our plans.

    But isn’t it based on first use, though, or is it first registration? I don’t know, Michael. Uh, so in the United States, you Get trademark rights without registering it simply by using them in commerce, but registration gives you a bunch of additional benefits, perhaps the most important of which is that you are searchable in the trade in the U.

    S. Trademark Office database so that any other responsible people that are coming forward. In the future, we’ll see you and hopefully choose a different name and avoid a problem, but it also gives you benefits like the ability to recover attorney’s fees. If you ever be down the road for infringing your mark.

    So registration is very important, but the, but more important, especially for startups without big budgets is to at least do a very good search. Of course, we always recommend that you then, if we clear a mark for your use. We are always going to recommend that you go ahead and file an application with the trademark office.

    You know, that’s another thousand bucks all in basically to the end of the process. And then you get a trademark registration. Then you’ve got a moat around your brand.

    Yeah. And hence what I was saying, like it was really kind of silly what we did. We should have just like, if we were serious about the name and the mark, we should have just like spent that. What I think you said, 1, 000. And instead we had to spend probably three times that much. Maybe that’s not a lot of money for a lot of people, but for us, we’re very, you know, conscientious about these things, especially when we’re launching them.

    Yeah. It’s, it’s critically important. I mean, otherwise you’re looking at. And having to basically redo everything you’ve, you’ve already done. You have to redo all your marketing, com pieces. You’ve got to select another domain name. I mean, it’s the, the problem of a rebrand is, is immense and you just don’t want to go there.

    You’re, you’re just so much smarter to spend time upfront getting comfortable that you’re not going to have. Such a risk with that. And I would say for us, and then you don’t have to wait a year, like that probably costs me more Michael and Jonathan than whatever the 3, 000 is that then I’m like, Oh shoot, now I have to wait a year cause I really messed up.

    Yeah. With a lot of uncertainty too, whether you’re going to be sued. It’s not a fun place to be for, for a young business. If I could jump in, there is an additional. A huge additional benefit of registering your trademark. In that, um, one of the biggest points of infringement, um, it’s no longer, um, the point of sale, it’s the point of the internet.

    So, or the, the, the website. So if you have a trademark and you’re using it, um, and someone comes on and registers a domain name that incorporates your trademark, um, so you say you want to file a UDRP, which is a lot cheaper than, uh, than a federal action, you’re a lot more likely to win. This UDRP, if you have a trademark registration, because you have to show the bad faith of the party that registered it.

    Yeah, that’s a very good point. Um, and, and segues also to, to another sort of aspect of trademark protection, which of course is domain names, you know, generally those correspond to your trademark. And it’s very smart to invest a bit in a little bit of a domain portfolio rather than just having one domain name.

    Think about the different variants that people. that nefarious people might register to mess with your business or to try to steal the goodwill that you build up in your business. So again, I mean, obvious ones are adding an S to the end of whatever your name is, but you know, again, being clever about it, thinking proactively about, you know, what would you do if somebody wanted to mess with, with mess with me, you know, and, and.

    Because domain names are very cheap to register, you know, 20 bucks a year dot com. So it really, again, behooves you to think not only about trademarks, but about domain name registrations to protect your brand. Okay, so could I understand this a little better? So you’re saying that if, if I have a trademark.

    I can stop somebody from registering a domain name or I can get that domain name from them. No, you can’t stop somebody from registering a domain name. But as Jonathan was alluding to, you will have a much easier time stopping them if they if they so registration is one thing, but then if they put it to use.

    To mess with your business some way to siphon traffic from your website to create a phishing campaign. I mean, all sorts of things we see every day. Um, then you have a remedy available to you. It’s called a UDRP. It’s a uniform domain. Domain name dispute resolution policy. It’s something that you agree to every time you register a domain name.

    And basically it’s a much faster, much cheaper option than going to court to stop that bad behavior.

    All right, got it. Um, look, I mean, this is technical. This is sort of like stuff that as we do with the startups, we don’t really want to think about, but it’s really important. It’s really important to get. Your name straight. It’s in, especially in today’s world, you know, with so many businesses and so much out there and so much social media and everything, the name is important.

    And if you build a brand and you have to change it, that can be can be very scary. Um, what about a name like paw dot com p a w dot com? You know, I know we’ve talked about this in the past, but you know, it’s something that is so generic. You just can’t trademark it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

    Well, and paw is definitely not generic. I mean, you’re not selling paws. You’re selling pet products. So, you know, paw is, is actually a good trademark and it’s a great domain name because it’s so, so, so short. Um, but you know, trademarks are sort of, there’s a, a, a range of of strength of marks from really descriptive things to really arbitrary things like, you know, Yahoo or Google compared to, you know, paw sort of falls in the middle, what we call suggestive.

    It suggests pets or at least dogs and cats and other things with paws, but it doesn’t describe Anything that you’re selling. So it’s actually quite a strong trademark.

    Okay. That’s interesting. Cause we haven’t, you know, we, we, we haven’t actually got the trademark for it yet. I think we’ve worked with you on that one. But, um, but, but that’s not, that’s not because of the weakness of the mark. That’s because of other people that are out there. I mean, a million companies use PAW though.

    Like, uh, you know, it’s, that’s the problem we have. Right. So it’s hard to get a trademark when, like if you, if you have a company like, well, you know, famous story, like Xerox, you know, It’s obviously a very unique word, you know, um, when you make up words, they tend to have better. You tend to be able to trademark them better.

    Um, but when you go with something generic, it’s hard to trademark. But at the same time, you get better SEO juice from your domain name. So. It’s a little bit of a give and take, you know, that’s right. Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, these are the things that, that young businesses struggle with all of the time in, in deciding what to name their business.

    But the more descriptive the name is, the more others are going to use it. And the narrower the scope of protection you’re going to have. Um, on the other hand, when you create a, an arbitrary brand. An arbitrary brand, then you’ve gotta spend a lot more money in a market and, and, and get consumers to associate that arbitrary word with your product.

    Yeah. So it’s a balance. Right? I have a question. When it’s returned, I, I think the point is it’s a real balance. In terms of what you could, um, you know, trademark, I guess that’s the right terminology versus what is good for branding. And I, I would argue, I’ll say that. I would argue for not making upwards for a new brand because it’s, you know, You’re not going to get S.

    C. O. and that requires a lot of money to spend in education. I would argue for more generic. So really, what is the right balance?

    I have a question when it’s my turn. I don’t know, Jason. Um, just hold on. Gabriel Gabriel has been very patient. We’ll jump right to you next. Did you want to answer that, Mike? What was the right balance? Is that what the question you’re asking? I mean, that of course, the classic lawyer answer is it depends.

    It depends on what your business is, what else is out there, what words you’re looking at. I mean, you just cannot answer that question in the abstract. All right. Well, Gabriel, you’ve been very patient and I don’t know if you have a trademark story or if you have a question for Mike Rodenbaugh or Jonathan Frost, who are two.

    Uh, very successful lawyers. And, um, I know in the past have helped us out on a lot of these trademark and copyright issues. So Gabriel, uh, any questions or experiences or thoughts? Hey, guys. Um, no, I don’t, I don’t really have experiences to be honest. Um, my only question it will be, um, I think it’s going to be for Jonathan for the legal for the legal stuff and, and, and.

    In my business, um, what, what kind of contracts does he recommend for when building a partnership, you know, with someone, um, with like an investor or someone, you know what I mean? Like what kind of paperwork should we, should we get, you know what I mean? Um, and, and I’m talking more like about like for small investments, you know, like for, you know, when you have like family members, you know, they want to invest 20, 40, 000 in your business, you know, like, um, what kind of, what kind of paperwork should we get, you know?

    For sometimes we used to do like, um, you know, we just, I don’t know, we just, you know, talk, you know, and like, Oh, okay. Yeah. Um, borrow me the money. I’ll pay you later, but I want to do like the right way. You know what I mean? That’s my question. You know, like, you know, when making the members, you know? Yeah.

    Thanks Gabriel. That’s a fantastic question. Um, just as Mike said that the answer, um, is always, it depends. Um, it depends on the scale of the business. It depends on, um, the size of the business. It depends on who you’re talking to. It depends on who they, if, whether they approached you or not. Um, if this is just a small, your family’s investing in your business, then at the absolute minimum, you need to have.

    A, an agreement that represents what stock you’re giving them and what their obligations are and what ownership in your company they’re getting. And to the extent to which this is equity and the extent to which this is, uh, this is debt, um, also, you need to have your corporate paperwork straight so that when they come and they say, okay, I own some of this business, um, it’s very clear what that means, whether it’s a corporation and they own stock, whether they have voting rights.

    These are all things that, um, they aren’t automatic. So you have to have them set up. Another question on, excuse me, I mean, go ahead.

    Go ahead, Jonathan. Finish your thought, Jonathan. Another, another question on this is, do I have to do an SEC registration? Um, this, this question, it’s filing a Form D for very small investments potentially. It creeps up. And sometimes you’d be surprised by, by How often you have to do a registration with the SEC when giving out stock.

    So that’s that’s another question that just needs to be answered. That’s based on the size of the size of your company and just sort of bring it back to back to our topic today, which is really around IP. It’s very important that any agreements with investors. You know, make it clear that they’re not taking any ownership interest in the IP of the company.

    There’s lots and lots of horror stories about, you know, so called joint ownership of IP. And it’s just, that’s another place you never want to find yourself. You want to always be very clear that it’s your business that owns the IP in the business. And then that means also from your perspective as a founder.

    You want to make sure that it’s not in your name because that can raise liability issues for you as an individual, for your family, for your home, you want to make sure the reason that you have an LLC or a corporation is to, to take that liability. And so, you know, trademarks, copyrights, patents, these are business assets that need to be owned solely and exclusively.

    Well, thank, thank you for that, Gabriel. And we’re going to, Jason, we’re going to jump down to you next. Do you have a question or a trademark horror story? Well, not a horror story, but I do think, I do want to save a lot of people from not starting their businesses their whole life. Because I’ve heard many people that get confused and they think that the first step is paying the lawyers to trademark things.

    And I’ve talked to many lawyers that I don’t know if it’s their lack of knowledge or that they’ve invested in the system and they refuse to be honest about the limitations of that system. What I mean is this, I worked at Microsoft in 98 99 as an anti piracy marketing associate. And I worked with, and the lawyers were heavily in that department.

    And a lot of people think that if they can’t afford to pay lawyers to trademark something, they shouldn’t start. And this is the opposite of the way it works. I believe. That you should first get it, like, for instance, get the dot com and if it’s not being used yet, like, I don’t know how Clubhouse managed to, um, I don’t really know the full story, but I do know that, for instance, somebody else is using Clubhouse trademark and they have to settle out of court.

    I don’t know how, for how much, but I teach that first you secure a unique name that’s not being used in that field, that area, because trademarks are for particular areas. So if, for instance, dot com, like I’ll say for me. I get a dot com, like I’ve had free shares or I’ve spelt free P H R E E since 1999. I was the first person to do that because when, because I bought V H R E E dot com.

    I also bought P H R E houses and everything. So, and free everything, you know, I bought over a hundred, but my point is this. Lawyers tell me that I shouldn’t just use it, that I should pay them. Then trademark it, and I would have paid lawyers millions of dollars by now to trademark every single word that spells with P H R E E because that’s what I was doing in 99.

    I went to the psych ward because it was too many, too much, and I didn’t pay a lawyer, but I came out and I registered a whole corporation in Canada named Free Shares Incorporated. Now my point is this, if I would pay lawyers since 1999, I still haven’t made any money with that. FreeShares does everything for free.

    Okay, I’m, I, I preach the gospel, so that’s what we do in the church. But my point is this. 25 years. That’s 25 years ago. Some lawyers, every single year, if I talk to the same lawyers, they would still say I have to pay them. For 25 years, I haven’t made any money with that. Okay, so, my point is this. People have to have at least a little bit of knowledge before they go and pay lawyers because there are some lawyers that still think that I should have been paying all of these years.

    So trademark things, first of all, it’s country based, so then I’d have to pay in the U. S. I’d have to pay in all these other countries or the, the thing where they do it globally, and I still hadn’t made any money. And this stops a lot of people from starting a business because they get caught up in worrying about paying lawyers before they’ve even validated that the business is a good idea, that it will make money, that that’s the hardest thing about business is making money.

    It’s not protecting your intellectual property. You have to make sure it’s worthy of being protected. Still to this day, lawyers talk to me and say, I should have trademarked the thing. How can somebody trademark it? So here’s the question. Would anybody be successful trademarking one of my dot coms that I’ve used since 1999 that I spelled P H R E?

    It’s protected by my family name, Humphreys. I don’t care. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos. They can all try to trademark the things. Which country is going to believe that they first did that when I did that and I’m in the newspaper for it in 19, since 1999. Uh, so I, I guess that’s my question. Am I not correct?

    Even though I don’t have a law degree, I got accepted to Osgoode Hall Law School, but I decided not to go because I wanted to be more like Bill Gates Jr. than Bill Gates Sr. Bill Gates Jr. dropped out. I’m done speaking. You got a few things right in there and a few things quite wrong. Um, Jason, you know, yes, trademark rights are territorial.

    You, you have to register them in individual countries in order to have rights there outside of the United States. The fact that you are a prior user of a mark is not, doesn’t matter because almost everywhere outside of the United States and Canada, trademark rights are based on registration, not on use.

    So the fact that you have used free, whatever. For 25 years in China won’t matter if somebody goes tomorrow and registers free, whatever as a trademark, they can then prevent you. They can sue you and prevent you from doing business in China. That’s just a fact. And the fact that you’ve used it for 25 years is great for you.

    You could register your marks now. Wherever you want in the United States or anywhere else and, and, and enhance the protection that you have and prevent, be able then to prevent others from using the mark, but as of now, you’re not registered in China. The fact that you have a, the domain name is great.

    The fact that you build a business is great, but the reality is. That somebody in China could literally stop you from using your, from conducting business in that country simply by going and registering their trademark there. Okay. But that is not, does not invalidate what I said. I don’t want to do business in China because China, that was the whole point.

    China was ripping off Microsoft software. China’s one example, but, but, you know, literally any other countries, the entire European Union, in fact, is the same way. It’s first to file, not first to use, as it is here in the U. S. Mike, isn’t UDRP for the dot com not superseded? If somebody goes to try to trademark one of my names in Europe?

    And I have the. com. Are you saying they can make me surrender my. com that I’ve used since 1999? Um, they, I’m not saying they could make you surrender your domain name. No, I’m saying that they could. They could prevent you from doing business in the European Union. Theoretically, they could At minimum, Jason, what they could do is cause you a very expensive headache that requires you to hire European lawyers to fight your case.

    Mike, this is the kind of Can I just say something here? This is the kind of legal advice that I do not agree with because I have not made any money yet and I’ve had to sell my house twice. I don’t have a wife or any kids. Think about the context of this. I am not concerned about European Union. What I’m saying to people is use wisdom, business wisdom, when taking advice.

    It has to be applicable. I’m not as big as Microsoft. I have not done any money, made any money in Europe. This is not a concern that should concern me when I haven’t sold anything. And this is my point that it’s not, that it’s not a concern. It exactly. All right. I’m going to intervene to keep it rolling.

    Yeah. You bring up some amazing points. And I think Mike would tell you, he’d be the first to tell you, I’ve worked with him for a long time. It depends on what your plans are. It depends on what your business model is. It depends on what your products are. Uh, no one’s advocating that you should, you know, trademark for the world.

    So on that, you have to admit, Michelle, we’ve been pretty cheap. Like we’re like, okay, Mike, you know, we don’t have any money, but can you do this, that, and the other. And, and yeah, a good lawyer will work with the client and understand the needs of the client. Yeah. That’s right. And obviously work within your budget, you know, you could only do so much.

    As Michelle said, I don’t have never had a client except when I was working in house at Yahoo that tries to register its mark everywhere in the world. I mean, only the biggest companies do that. But I do have a number of clients that registered their marks in, you know, all of the major countries in the world, uh, and including the European union.

    You know, you’re talking obviously for a startup, that’s, that may not even be practical, but once you get to a certain level. You know, it’s very worthwhile spending 10, 000, 20, 000 to protect your brand in all of the major economies once you get that sort of budget. Yeah. I actually also have another case study here that might interest you.

    Uh, we run e commerce companies here at the incubator and we have a product called the pup rug and we spent about 10 Uh, it’s come down a little bit, uh, lately as we’ve pulled back from Facebook and whatnot, so even 5 million a year or whatever it is. But, um, but what we would do is we’d advertise Pup Rug and then a lot of people would go to Amazon, type in the word Pup Rug, and there were three copycat companies using the word Pup Rug, but we managed to finally get some form of a trademark around Pup Rug.

    Uh, and we had them taken down. So if you’re an e commerce. Uh, and you have a product, I don’t think a trademark is optional. You need it. If you’re, if you’re, if you have a good product, if you have a product that can sell, uh, like the pup rug, uh, then you do need to trademark those products because otherwise other copycats will use those search terms on Amazon.

    Amazon here to take it from your, from, from, from your business. Every business needs to build a moat. And if I can just jump in, if you don’t have a business, you don’t need to build a moat. Okay. And that’s fine. But if you got a business, you need to build a moat. The earlier you start to build that moat, the stronger it’ll be.

    And it doesn’t cost a lot. And by the way, let’s, let’s address that. Mike, if I’m a small business and I do want to get a trademark, how much does it actually cost just to file for the trademark and, and, and get the actual trailer? Is this, are we talking tens of thousands of dollars? No, we’re talking, as I said before, if you just want to get started for startups in the United States, you know, we recommend we do a search, 500 bucks, assuming everything looks good and clear, you’re comfortable moving ahead using it.

    Then we recommend you register to the United States. That’s 1100 bucks. That’s all in, assuming that there’s no problems that arise along the way. And of course, that’s what the search is for, is to gauge the risk of any sorts of problems. So, I mean. For most businesses, you’re talking 1, 600 to get a trademark registered in the United States for one class that you can move ahead with your business, feeling comfortable that you’re building a moat around your brand.

    And not only building a moat to protect your rights, but also To prevent other people from coming after you. That’s the biggest thing, one of the, you always got to look at these things both offensively and defensively. You want to be able to not only use your trademark registration to get infringers off of Amazon through use of Amazon brand registry service, but You also want to be comfortable that nobody’s going to come after you with a cease and desist letter and cause you legal problems.

    Because you hire, you want to, you come to me, someone sent you a cease and desist letter, you want me to look at it? Well, now you’re talking about 2, 500 minimum just for me to look at it, get engaged, and talk to that other lawyer. Yeah, and that was my point earlier. Like, I, I did that. I went cheap. Hey, Michelle.

    Why don’t you talk about the 250, 000 issue with Meowingtons and Deadmau5s? Well, I know. Because that’s the thing. So you think it’s cheap, but then you get into these 100, 000 lawsuits. I was trying to avoid that, Colin, but you know, you’re forcing me. Okay. I think you should bring it up. I’m going to use it as an example.

    I’m going to, you know, not say exact names, but there is an extremely famous Electronic, uh, whatever DJ, I’m not going to say his name, but, you know, it might have something that sounds public records

    prior owners got in a dispute with them. Okay. This costs a lot of money. And it’s hurt the company, like, I can’t even tell you, okay, Colin said the name, I didn’t say the name, but it required over 100, 000 of cash just to keep the business live and You know, they, there was a decision made by the prior owners that, um, they always have like certain rights on the trademark and, uh, they get first rights of refusal.

    Okay. Yeah. But I mean, the fact, the fact of the matter is, um, they, uh, they, you know, the guy has a cat that he never trademarked or anything. Meowington’s here filed for a trademark, and then it’s challenged and taken to court, and we’re dealing with, I know this case pretty well, we want 250, 000 in legal fees, 250, 000 in legal fees before they sell.

    And had a search been done by the prior owners, they would have seen Deadmau5’s registration there. They never had a registration though. I thought they did. But anyway, I may not be remembering, remembering the facts precisely, right? Cause it’s been a while ago, but I mean, the reason do a search is to see if there’s any problems like that that are out there and then you, you know, you, you want to avoid those problems.

    So you pick another name and Jason, you’re like, this is absolutely free. You just go to the trademark database in, I believe it’s called nuance in Canada. Uh, and, uh, it used to be the test database, but it’s the, uh, now the trademark database and they’ve got a much better interface now for, for anyone who needs to search for it.

    So it’s, it’s, there’s no excuse not to, uh, Mike, I know we didn’t talk a lot about copyright, but about three months ago, I called you up. Because, uh, the book Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat launched on October 3rd became a number one bestseller on eight Amazon categories, number two right now in the United States for starting a business.

    That’s pretty cool today. Congratulations. Thank you. Thank you for that. Um, but, but, uh, we had some copycats. We had two other books that launched with similar titles within a month or so of us launching the book. And we had a had someone who actually took the text from the book. The actual text put it into a workbook and then they put a disclaimer at the end and said, this is not affiliated with the, um, the book starts, kill, exit, repeat.

    And I was just curious from a copyright, you know, for authors or for. Uh, people who, who create content, creators, and especially on Clubhouse, we have a lot of creators on Clubhouse, like, we don’t, can people just do that? Is that right? That they can just put on, uh, they take my book, my words, my, and put it on their book and sell it?

    I mean, I, you know, of course it’s not right. Um, so yeah, copyrights. Distinct thing from trademark, right? Trademark is a brand. It’s a name. It’s an indicator of source copyright is content, whether it’s a song or your website content or your source code. There’s all sorts of different sorts of content that’s copyrightable obviously books, movies, etc.

    So the thing with that is similar to trademark in one sense that once you publish. Uh, content, you own the copyright in it, but the problem is, and which is different than trademark, you can’t sue for copyright infringement unless you’ve registered your copyright with the United States Copyright Office, and so it’s not a very You can’t sue for copyright infringement unless you’ve registered your copyright with the United States Copyright Office, and so it’s not a very Uh, expensive process again, it’s typically around 500 or so if you hire us to do it, but you can try to do it yourself and then it’s more like, you know, 100.

    I think the typical filing fees to the copyright office are under 100, but yeah, you know. Like anything in, in law, there’s nuance to these applications, but if you’re a startup, you’re bootstrapping, then you can certainly go and do it yourself. It’s better than nothing. Um, at least you have a leg to stand on when somebody, if, if, and when somebody comes and completely rips you off, like, like Colin has experienced already.

    Yeah. And so we applied, we did, we worked with you, Mike, um, with your firm, Rodenbaugh. law. Spelt very weird. Um, but, uh, , um, but it, I I, I pinned it at the top of the room there if you wanna have a look. But, so we worked with you and, um, but how long is it gonna take before we can go back to Amazon and say, okay, they violated, like, can we, can we go like, are we waiting for the copyright to come through before we can con contest it?

    Or do we have to just, we just go sooner rather than later? Um, so yeah, you’re not talking about suing the copyright owner now you’re talking about going to Amazon and asking them to do a take down. Yeah. And in which, so you don’t have to have a registration in order to do that. You can do that simply as the copyright owner.

    So we, we, we can literally do that now. Okay. So that’s something we’ll, we’ll, we should probably work on pretty soon. I know we have our own workbook that’s, you know, that’s coming out in an actual official workbook that the book that they came out with. Is an unofficial workbook based on the work by Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat.

    So, all right, sounds good, Roland. I pinged you on stage. You’re like such a celebrity on this show, on this podcast. And you come on many times and we really, really appreciate that. And I know you have a lot of experience on trademarks, uh, Roland. Uh, if you have any thoughts or horror stories you want to share, or if you want to ask a question of Mike.

    And Jonathan, uh, to lawyers who specialize in trademarks and copyrights, you know, feel free to do so. If you’re in the audience, we’ve got about 56 minutes left before we’re going to cut off the questions because we have at three o’clock. We’re jumping right over to entree, which is a new platform. And today we’re doing a master class on your X Factor.

    So, Roland, any thoughts on trademarks? So, Colin, two clarifications that are very important. Number one, I’m not a celebrity, but I don’t associate with celebrities. Number two, I’m not an expert on trademarks. I do have some knowledge. You’re coming in a little quiet. If you can Better now? Yeah, much better.

    Okay, so I was saying two things, two clarifications. Number one, I’m not a celebrity and I don’t associate with celebrities. Number two, I’m not a trademark expert and I don’t purport to be one. I do have some knowledge in this space, but I don’t have any questions. Thanks for inviting me out. All right, sounds good.

    But you are a mini celebrity on our show. So we appreciate your support all the time. All right. So, uh. Jonathan, let me ask you a question. Uh, you know, you’ve been involved in a lot of domain name, you know, a lot of domain names. Uh, you know, you worked for dot club, obviously company that we ran here before.

    Uh, how important is it to register domain names to protect your business? You have a name, you know, you know, I see a lot lately with You know, whatever dot a I like, um, business dot a I and there’s dot club, as you know, and there’s dot com. What are your thoughts on that? And by registering domain names, does that give you any legal protection?

    Um, okay. So I guess, um, of course, of course, it’s very important to register your domain name. Um, and I think this was what Jason was getting at earlier to the exclusion of legal. Protections. Um, he really appreciated the registering your domain name. Um, so I mean, I’d say it’s, it’s, it’s up there with with the trademark registrations.

    Why is that? Well, Let’s say you’re an e commerce company. Of course you have to register your domain names because someone’s going to come in and compete with you. And okay. Let’s say you’re not an e commerce company, like you’re a, I don’t know, a printer, so let’s say a competitor comes in and registers your name and now you’ve got a legal battle.

    Um, so either way, no matter what kind of business you are, it’s really important. Because that’s your, that’s, that’s your name in the yellow pages. This isn’t, um, there are no more yellow pages. It’s your domain name. So, I mean, I would say it’s of the highest importance. Yeah, let me, let me, let me add to that.

    So, while trademark registrations can get expensive in other countries, domain registrations are a lot cheaper. You know, even country code domain registrations, you know, sometimes they can be 50. Sometimes it can even be over 100. Well, that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than you’re trying to register a trademark in another country.

    And so what we call it is de facto trademark protection. So if you own the domain name that directly corresponds to your trademark, you know, that’s, that’s going to keep most people away from. Using that name for your business in, in that country, even without the trademark registration. So let me ask you a question about that.

    Cause it’s interesting. Like, so, you know, you have, there’s an app and another LLM just launched called PI PI dot AI. Love it. It’s actually amazing. And back next week, the show is PI AI is going to interview me for the book. Uh, so it’s actually pretty funny, but so if somebody owns PI AI. com and then I get PI dot AI Who’s got the rights to it here?

    Can you talk a bit about that, Mike? Yeah, I mean, it depends. If pie AI. com has a business called pie AI predates pie dot AI. The dot com business has trademark priority and can stop pi. ai from doing business, literally. I mean, it really depends on who’s first to market with their product in the United States.

    That gives you trademark ownership. In the United States, um, domain names don’t give you any legal rights, but they give you very strong practical rights because people can’t do business on the internet without one. So if so, if I had Roland, so if I had pay ai pi ai.com, can I take and somebody launches pi.ai, can I do a UDP of pie AI if it’s in the same business?

    Yes, quite possibly. With the proviso that, um, ai probably is not on the UDFP system, but there may be some equivalent system in the AI space. True. Yeah, I’m not sure whether ai has adopted a UDRP like process or not. Yeah, now we’re getting a little technical, but the UDRP generally only applies to gTLD domain names, com, net, or all the new ones.

    Country codes, most of them have adopted some form of UDRP for their particular country. Alright, Roland, I know you want to jump in here. Yeah, I wanted to ask Mike a follow on question. So Mike said they can practically stop the other company from doing business. Is it a competitive thing or is it just a branding thing?

    branding thing. I mean, which is a competitive thing. I mean, they’re, they’re one in the same, but you know, if you own the, if you own the domain, if you own the domain name, then nobody else can use it, right? There’s only one of each domain name, they can change the name, right? Sure. They could add letters to it, register other domains, and then, then, you know, your domain name is not going to give you any real rights.

    But if you have a trademark registration, then you could use that to go after them. My following question is, does that mean that Having a certain domain name. Is it a precursor to having a certain trademark? No. It’s, it’s not. I mean, often they go hand in hand. I mean, almost always your domain name corresponds directly to your trademark.

    And in general, best practice obviously is just that, that you have both and that they are the same. Thank you. But the fact that you have a domain name registration does not give you any legal rights other than to use that domain name. Okay. Exclusively for your business.

    Only a trademark registration gives you rights to exclude others from using confusingly similar trademarks and domain names.

    All right, Mike. So you were running down the last couple of minutes here and we got to jump over to that masterclass. But I, I wanted to ask a practical question. So how does somebody, okay, you got a name and, and, and Jason, let’s just say you got some business coming in. Do you expect it? You know, whether revenue is coming or not revenue, you expect the revenue to come in.

    Uh, you’re trying to make some money. What is the step I do? Like, oh, I just pick up the phone and call you? Do you have a, you have a website? Like, what is it that, whether it’s you or any lawyer, like, what is the first thing I need to do? Well, I, yeah, again, of course, reach out to us through my website or otherwise, and you know, 1600 bucks, we will do a trademark search for you and get your trademark application on file for you.

    Okay. So tell us what is the email or I’m sorry. What is your website? I know that many people here, actually, I think that’s quite a deal. You’re being generous, Mike and Jonathan, how do we get to your website and how do we actually make that request? Well, it’s rodenbaugh. law is the website where you can always email.

    Yeah. Because some people just podcast here. So not everybody has the benefit of the, uh, yeah, wait, let it go. It’s R O D. E-N-B-A-U-G Haugh Law. Or Mike at Rodenbaugh. com, info at Rodenbaugh. com. Lots of ways to get to me. I’m on LinkedIn. I mean, you can find me as long as you can spell Rodenbaugh. R O D E N B A U G H.

    And it’s interesting, you have a Rodenbaugh. law. So R O D E N B A U G H. law. But do you have a com? Like, do you have Rodenbaughlaw. com? I have. Yes, I do. You know, I’ve got various names around it. Um, but yeah, I’ve always had rodentball. com since the 90s and I haven’t really transitioned email over to that yet simply because I’ve had it since the 90s.

    So I’ve just kept kept. Promoting the dot law. He’s old school. I don’t know. I’m old school, but I’m new school with the dot law because lots of clients, uh, domain name registries like Colin used to be with dot club. Uh, so yeah, I, I, I’m a big supporter of new top level domains and, uh, that. Part of that is the dot law top level domain that I do use for the website.

    I think when I searched the internet, I typed in, like, Mike Rotenbaugh, and that’s what came up. That’s why I pinned it at the top of the room here. Yeah, so it’s interesting. You don’t have to have a dot com, but it sounds like you still need one ultimately to protect yourself. Uh, that’s one of those moats.

    And it’s not a, and Jason, you’ll probably agree with me on this one. Uh, that even if you, uh, don’t use the. com, you still want to have. The dot com because it still is the king, and it sends a statement that you own that name. It’s in a way. It’s a sort of a mini. It’s his own little trademark global trademark verification having a dot com.

    Uh, and this comes from a. From somebody who owns own dot club in which I do truly believe there’s alternatives available, but we also own pot dot com and we also product club P. A. W. dot club, which we use, um, I’m working with the Allen Allen Levin Center, and there are a huge incubator here in South Florida, and they have the dot com, but also the dot club to, uh, because they want to make it feel like a club.

    So it really depends. You know, dot a I dot law. There are some good names of meaning. You’ve been listening to Start, Scale, Exit, Repeat, Serial Entrepreneur, Secrets Revealed. I just want to make an announcement right now that, uh, Forbes Books has put that book, that title, uh, you know, it’s the title of the podcast, it’s the title of the show.

    It’s also the title of the book that came out October 3rd, uh, 2023, and it is the, um, It has been number one in eight categories. It is number two right now, today on Amazon for starting a business ebook and Forbes books, put it on sale for 24 hours, that’s it. And if you wanted to get a copy of it, this would be the time to do that.

    Uh, we had a meeting with Forbes yesterday, Michelle and I, the second edition print is already selling out. They only have 200 copies left on the hard cover. Um, and they’ve done the third edition print is going to press now and the fourth edition print, which will be paperback is also going to print. Uh, and we just had an incredible.

    Response. We’re doing right now, right now at this very second. If you jump to entree, I don’t know if you can pin the link, Mimi or Michelle. If you jump to entree, we are doing a masterclass. It’s free. And by the way, it’s not free. Uh, after the original airing, it will become part of the pro membership on entree.

    So we’ll see you all on entree. It’s all about the X factor. What is it that makes you different and unique? Can make you successful in business on entree? Let’s, let’s, let’s spell that so everyone can actually download the app. It’s E-N-T-R-E and it is a new app that is for entrepreneurs exclusively, right, Colin?

    Yeah, all right Well, I hope everyone has an amazing weekend and we look forward to seeing you here or hearing you here. I should say next week, Friday at 2 p. m. Eastern and a very big special thank you to our special guests, Jonathan Frost and Michael Rodenball. Please reach out to them. If you have any questions, I know they would love to talk to you about any intellectual property and business law.

    I believe two questions. So have an amazing weekend. Thank you everyone. Thanks, Michelle. Thanks, Colin.

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