Trademarking: Learning the difference between DIY and Outsourcing to Lawyer



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Katie Hellmuth's picture
All #SmallBizDiary Entries by Katie Hellmuth
The views of this member do not reflect those of Tin Shingle.
I usually work with a lawyer to do my trademarking. I don't trust myself in submitting everything correctly. Recently, one of my trademarks came up for renewal. I tried to have a go at it myself. Here's what I learned last week about someone like me renewing a trademark, versus keeping it in the hands of an attorney:
Deadlines Must Be Hit - Do You Know When They Are?
Business owners get sent tons of spammy trademark notices. A lawyer can tell the difference in seconds, where as a business owner may be sent into a confused tizzy, and will read and re-read the information with still not a lot of confidence that they know the right answer. And the answer is usually very simple. But forms are usually not worded simply. ;)
Did You Move? Did You Change Your Address?
When you moved, did you think to update the address on file with your trademark? Probably not. And if you didn't, you probably didn't get the notice X years later that your trademark is up for renewal. Woops.
Did You Get Married? Did You Change Your Name?
If you got married and changed your name (guys? you doing this yet?), or if you fancied up the spelling of your name from your birth certificate, did you change it if you used it on your trademark?
You Can't Be Bothered:
Filling out forms for the state or federal government is scary. Why? Because their wording is so "over-it" - they've gotten all the crazy questions and seen all the mistakes. So their wording is basically: "Don't be an idiot, or we will fine you, and make you do this all over again." A lawyer could do this much faster than you, and it won't disrupt your day.  For example: on the trademark renewal form, assuming you've made it to the correct form (vs the "I have a Correction" form, or "I am not using this trademark anymore form", etc), then you'll read the words: "You have 60 minutes to fill this out, and then your data will be lost and you'll have to do it again." A lawyer will have all of your stuff ready, the correct photo or video specimen, and will probably click through the form in 10 minutes. And with much less agony and self-doubt than you. 
 So Many Little Things To Mess It All Up:
The silliest things can make you lose your trademark when filling out forms. Here's a good one from the trademark renewal form when you've made it through the pages of forms, within the stressful time limitation:
"You can NOT make any fee payments by credit card from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday EST."
Oh, here's a better lovely scenario:
You fill out the form, but the payment page can't even open, and they are blaming it on Super Storm Sandy. The next message says that you'll need to fill out the form later. And you skipped the part about downloading the whole form you filled out into a file because you 1. finished filling it out within the 60 minutes, and 2. you verified that everything was correct, so why would you need a backup? Until the connection at their website broke your stride. Fun times.
I made it through the renewal process and was able to make a payment, but I still don't know if I did it right, and if something was wrong, does that make me lose my trademark because I did it so close to my renewal date. Sigh. The joys of doing your own trademark. Unless you hire a lawyer.  :)