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Many indies know they should think about trademarking; it's on the (long) list of things to do, but funds are tight and they feel they have to allocate the money in other ways first. They want to build their brand first, and once their brand gains popularity they feel the time is right to think about protecting it. The problem with putting your time, energy and money into marketing and packaging and website development first is that you may be investing in a mark that may be not worth strong protection, or at worst, infringing on someone else's rights.
Ideally, the best time to work on obtaining a federally registered trademark is while developing the concept for your brand. A forward-thinking client will present a few options to me for a developing brand, and I will perform searches and let them know of any red flags before they make the decision to move forward with a mark.
Even if you have already been using your mark for some time, there is no time like the present to move forward with protecting the brand you have been building. The cost of obtaining a registered mark is well worth the protection it affords, in more ways than one.

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Yes, Tanya is right. Any formulas, recipes, etc. you have crafted for your products are proprietary information and you should always have a potential manufacturer sign an agreement acknowledging as such before providing anything. Any manufacturer you are looking at using should be very familiar with nondisclosure agreements and shouldn't balk at signing one. If they do, they are not someone you should consider working with.
Also, if it's a situation where you feel the least uncomfortable about the manufacturers and their business practices, don't pursue the deal.
Echoing that... YES! It's most definitely a case of "trust your gut"...if anything at all sets of red flags, listen to that instinct. There are people out there you do NOT want to do business with, customers that you do not want to sell your products to, etc.

If anything at all sets off red flags, stop going in that direction.

Which, on the other hand, does not mean that you should let fear of the unknown keep you from exploring new options and channels for growth.

That's a whole different thing!
Marge, it's interesting that you'd mention certain customers that you'd rather not deal with- I've experienced this same issue at times. There are people that you won't satisfy-period.

There are others who feel that because you are a small business, they should have some type of exclusive exception when it comes to your products: note, they may be the only ones who like a fragrance/product that's just not selling to the masses, ugh!!!

I digress. You can't let fear stop you. You also can't let shady businesses and customers stop you either.
I just thought about something else, and it will take quite a bit of homework filling out forms, and paying trademarking fees on your side: Trademark Everything before you give the manufacturers power to make any product you have. The responsibilty of protecting your work lies with you first. This means that if the manufacturers[and this has happened] attempt to make a product that is Your product and begin to create 'consumer confusion', this would be considered trademark infringement. At that point, you'd have a leg to stand on, but without these important pieces of info in place, it will be difficult to prove the authencity of the products, and even, your product names!!! It can get messy, so make preparations....
This is a timely issue for me as I am starting the trademarking process, after doing business for 5+ years under my business name- someone has recently started to also make toiletries under the same name & spelling. :(
I was hoping to invest in new tools this year- but clearly (for me) the Trademark application comes first.
Thanks for posting this Annie.
do you know of any seminars or more info? belen fashion designer san diego,ca
I totally agree with Annie's advice.
It gives me confidence to see the words "forward thinking", as I have been doing that for some time, I believe.
I formed an LLC to protect myself from myself, in case things get out of hand, and looked into a patent and had a patent-ability search for my formula for my product, but decided it too costly and too easy to work around, plus you have to monitor your own patents from infringement, or hire a company to alert you, and then hire an attorney to prosecute. Not for me.
I did file a trademark for my product name, which is now mine, (Yeah!) and am in the process of filing a trademark for a new "catch phrase" for the product, after putting one on my proto types with out checking the USPTO only to find it was used already by a very large company. Whoops!!!
My thought is that you want to create value in your product, which is in the product itself, and brand name, logo's or colors possibly associated with it, and if you can have a good product that is recognizable by your logo and package, that the name brand recognition you create is just as important, value wise, as the formulation and use.
I'm hoping to enter the marketplace in three to for months time, but hopefully have most of my "ducks" in a row.
I have been able to file a trademark with an IP Attorney for about $825, of which $325 is for the application fee.
Attorney fee's will vary, of course, but well worth the investment, I feel.
Stephen P. Markham
Epiphany Products and Development LLC
Schenectady, NY
Stephen, did you see alot of benefits with hiring an IP Attorney?
I've filled out and filed with the USPTO for the application & class fees only, and was assigned a trademark attorney via USPTO who walked me through the steps and I didn't have many challenges with this arrangement.
How long did it take for some of you to have your trademark application accepted? I completed the application 2 weeks ago and I received an email saying that an attorney will review it in 3 months and that the process could take 13-18 months or longer! I was really surprised at the length of time you have to wait.
I am very interested in this topic.  I have had a business for the past few years - craft fairs and the like.  When I decided to take it to the web, I began a search for a new name.  I chose mine based on my location and the image I wanted to present.  Where I live, there is a lot of pride in our location and my new name has been well received.  Now I am being confronted on Twitter by a vendor who actually has another name, but uses mine as a link to her already established website with the other name.  She is threatening to sue me for the use of the name.  Anyway, I did a check with the trademark office just to be safe because if she had trademarked it, I would change my name to suit.  However, she is not registered.  No one is registered with my name so boom I started the process to lock it in.  Now the money I was going to use to join this wonderful organization is going in to the trademark of my name.  This has been a rough start-up!  By the way, how long does this process normally take?

Do you mean the "tm" or the "R"?  I was able to use the "tm" after my name fairly soon, a few months, then waited years before the trademark was final.  Once you have  the "tm" no one can use your name.


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