A trademark can be a company’s most valuable asset. But too often, brand development and trademarking are not at the top of the entrepreneur’s to-do list when he or she is ramping up. It’s time-consuming, and often entrepreneurs don’t understand the value of intellectual property. How could a name, for example, cost more than the furniture for their office?
And then there’s the Bootstrapper’s Dilemma: The cost of creating and protecting a brand comes at a time when the fledgling company can least afford it.
But brand creation mistakes can be costly. Going to market with a brand you don’t completely own can come back to haunt you months later, as small business owners like the Oatmeal learned the hard way, and Apple seems to discover over and over and over and over.
Going to market with a completely protected weak name isn’t the answer either. Several years after starting SimulScribe, his voicemail transcription business, the founder realized his weak brand name was hindering growth, so he renamed the company to PhoneTag. Rebranding paid off immediately, with sales doubling in 18 months. But it came at a cost. Not only did the company have to pay significantly for rebranding, it also suffered considerable lost opportunity costs by operating for so long with a weak brand.
Today’s Forbes provides a valuable primer on naming a startup, including helpful information like this for aspiring global marketers:
As it turns out, a little-known rule about trademarking names is this: there is a six month window after applying for a domestic (U.S.) trademark during which you can safely apply for a trademark in another country and it will be backdated to the date of the U.S. registration.