Trademarks—What You Need to Know

By now you’ve probably gotten a whiff of the unsavory name-stealing scandal involving our beloved Jennine Jacob, founder of Independent Fashion Bloggers, Eat, Sleep, Denim, and The Coveted—and some other new site which has opened up shop under the same name as Jennine’s personal blog. I refuse to even mention the other site’s name here because I will not promote it or assist in traffic generation by embedding a link on G&G. Should you like more details regarding the situation, read Response from TheCoveted [dot] com : Don’t talk about us or we’ll sue, on the only true The Coveted, at  http://the-coveted.com.

The reason why I mention the brouhaha above (which has become a legal battle), is because as bloggers, we all have something to learn from this: a copyright symbol © on your blog does not protect you from trademark infringement. I think we all probably thought that. Well, it’s not true. Your copyright protects your content, not your identity. I’ll cover copyright in more detail in a future post. First, let’s talk about trademarks.

Oh, and one thing: I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY AND THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. Please consult a trademark attorney for legal advice regarding copyrights and trademarks. You can find a trademark lawyer to help protect your identity.

This post is intended to heighten awareness. You will have to make your own decisions regarding any action you may take.

Claim Your Trademark

In Signature9′s article covering the current situation with The Coveted, Eminent Domain Name: What To Do When Your Brand Is Coveted, a very straightforward explanation of trademarks is given. Read carefully, lovelies:

“There is probably a claim [for Jacob] at common law,” says Philip Marcus, a small business lawyer in Maryland who specializes in intellectual property.

“State/common law trademark laws may protect the first party to use a name,” Fichman explains. “A company can send a cease and desist letter based on state or common law trademarks even if that company does not have have a federally registered trademark.”

The first step to protecting the name you’ve built online, or are planning to build, is to be vocal about it. [Robert] Siminski [a Michigan patent and trademark attorney] suggests even a simple statement on the homepage of  your website can “put the public on notice that you’re claiming rights to the trademark.” The domain name alone may not be enough, but merely making that statement strengthens a website owner’s position. “It’s not as good as a federal registration,” he says, “but better than not outwardly claiming trademark rights.”

Federal trademark registration does require an attorney and costs between $1000 and $1200, inclusive of attorney fees, for registrations which are accepted. Staking your claim to a trademark costs nothing.

Notice that Jennine’s header now sports a trademark (TM) symbol. She has staked her claim publicly. Whether or not she ever registers her trademark, she was clearly the first person to use the name, and now, with the TM symbol, she has claimed it.

the coveted header

For most hobby bloggers, the cost of registering a trademark may not be justifiable or even necessary. But since you can claim your name—your blog’s unique identity—for free with the addition of the trademark symbol, well, all I’m saying is I claim “Grit and Glamour” and “Grit & Glamour” as my trademarks. And have documented it.

Trademarks According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

In researching trademarks, I found the USPTO to be helpful. Since I am a United States citizen, the USPTO is the governing body regarding trademarks. International readers, be sure to check with your country’s laws and rules regarding trademarks.

The following FAQs (and more) can be found at: http://www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp#_Toc275426712

Must I register my trademark?
No. You can establish rights in a mark based on use of the mark in commerce, without a registration. However, owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides several important benefits.

Do federal regulations govern the use of the designations “TM” or “SM” or the ® symbol?
If you claim rights to use a mark, you may use the “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim of ownership of the mark, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, you may only use the federal registration symbol “®” after the USPTO actually registers a mark, and not while an application is pending.

Starting a new site or blog?

Make sure your name isn’t already in use. There’s a more definitive way than Googling to determine this. Use the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

Still not quite sure about all these symbols?

Wikipedia gives a simple explanation:

A trademark is designated by the following symbols:

  • (for an unregistered trade mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand goods)
  • ℠ (for an unregistered service mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand services)
  • ® (for a registered trademark)

A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements

Blog tip: Use these keyboard codes to create symbols on your blog:
© Copyright symbol: Alt 0169  |  ® Registered symbol: Alt 0174  |  ™ Trademark: Alt 0153

Read next: Copyright and Image Use—What You Need to Know

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for keeping us informed!! I just wrote a post about being physically robbed last night in my home and now there is this to consider….there are so many scumbags who literally ROB us of our time working to protect ourselves against them. Cyber theft is just as bad as having your home broken into,…,it is still a violation!!
    Pam @over50feeling40′s latest post: Bloggers- Beware and Be Smart!My Profile

  2. says

    This is really good to know. I honestly thought you couldn’t stick a TM or SM symbol onto something without registering with the USPTO, but now that I know these symbols are actually for unregistered brands/goods I am more apt to use it, just in case. As well, I doubt most people are aware of this information, so the TM symbol will act as a great deterrent. I hope all this works out in Jennine’s favor, I’m still in disbelief.
    Chelsea Rae’s latest post: Outfit Love- Mix and MatchMy Profile

  3. says

    After I left your site, I decided to put a link to your post at the bottom of mine…since both discuss precautions for bloggers….So sad to begin Saturday dealing with things like this! Put bloggers need to beware.

  4. says

    A lot of really useful information there! Quite a bit for me to take in but I’m going to take some small steps to protect my content.
    Thanks
    Gemma x

    • says

      Sacramento, I am not in the position to answer questions about this topic since I am not a trademark attorney. All I will say is re-read the post, and I believe you will find your answer. Here’s a hint: the ℠ and ® marks do not apply to your blog.

  5. says

    Great information. Because of the nature of my job I am intimately familiar with the difference between trademarks and copyright and you are absolutely right! Most people lump trademark issues in with copyright and there is a big difference. The other thing that many people don’t know is that by law all intellectual property is automatically protected. So, like you said all bloggers need to do is CLAIM their stuff!!!

    What is going on with Jennine right now is just plain outrageous. I keep saying it would have been unacceptable if it had happen to any of us, but I am TRULY SHOCKED that this is happening to Jennine of all people.. are you kidding me? They seriously want us to believe that they had never heard of Jennine and the Coveted? It’s just absurd. Either way, like I said in my post on the matter, if they didn’t know (not likely) once they found out they should have had enough respect to comply with her request to cease and desist.
    Eboni Ife”s latest post: Good IntentionsMy Profile

  6. says

    Thanks for this entry, V. I wasn’t sure how to discreetly claim my blog name. I think the little symbol will do fine for now, and I’ll have to think about adding some verbiage in my footer or something.

    Tangentially, I also looked into buying a .com domain this past week because of sickening The Coveted situation. I wasn’t sure how to do it in a way to protect my privacy in the very public WHOIS records, which require full name, address, phone, etc. I noticed that BeautifullyInvisible had been able to register through a privacy proxy — and further investigation showed me that one can register via GoDaddy, and add around 9-10 bucks/year for the privacy services with Domains by Proxy. It adds up, but it’s good to know there is a way.

    I’m putting this here because you have far more readers interested in blog development than I do. ;-)
    Cloud of Secrets’s latest post: Seven VeilsMy Profile

    • says

      Sarah~

      I have purchased every domain for G&G: gritandglamour.com, .net, .biz, .org, .info, and .us, I think. I use Bluehost for purchasing and hosting, and unfortunately, I have had to purchase the WHOIS privacy for each domain. Which I think is criminal, but anyway. I, too, do not want my private details posted online, so it’s worth the expense. And mind you, because my blog is also a freelance writing endeavor, the costs associated with it are largely tax-deductible.

  7. says

    Thanks you once again Vahni for the great information. I know almost nothing about copyright and trademark laws so this is really helpful. I’ve already put a copyright notice on the sidebar of my blog, and I’ll look at adding a TM to my blog’s name and my website as well. The codes are also really helpful – I’ll go se if I can add a TM to my site right now.
    Love,
    Heather
    http://heathersdesignblog.com/

  8. says

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on this topic! I seriously think that copyright law needs to be re-written for the internet era. In my understanding, it hasn’t been updates since 1970. Did they even have fax machines in 1970?

  9. says

    Once again you write about something we are all curious to know more about and you do so in such a concise, cut-to-the-chase, informative way. Yes. This issues is weighing on my mind. My blog’s name is MY brand, both for online writing and product, and my Bella Q moniker is also a brand I use to promote my writing. I can’t even imagine the frustration if someone stole my Citizen Rosebud name- it is essential to convey the idea of my brand! And I can’t even fathom the frustration Jennine Jacobs must be experiencing, her hard work on developing her brands, her hard work on organizing yet another conference for her fellow independent bloggers, and having to deal with this. Sigh. Well, I am proud of what she has created and have no doubt she will win in the end.

    And you: being so powerfully Grit & Glamour. LOVE the way you write and how it makes me feel: united and empowered. I seriously don’t think I could love you any more than I already do, V. But I’m going try. xo. -Bella Q
    the Citizen Rosebud

    • says

      Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Your comment totally made my Saturday. Thank you so much, Bella! Knowing people like you appreciate the time it takes to craft posts like these makes them all worthwhile.

  10. says

    Excellent advice, V. I’ve been following Jennine’s battle and my heart really goes out to her… it’s horrible that other people are trying to claim a name that is rightfully her own – one that she has worked for years to build up.
    Leia’s latest post: Quick &amp Easy Wholemeal BreadMy Profile

  11. says

    Thank you so much for this information, Vahni – like many people I had no idea you could use the ™ symbol without registering your trademark first. I’ve put ™ where it needs to be on my blog and retweeted this post so more people will know.
    Eva’s latest post: Stop promoting TheCovetedcom!My Profile

    • says

      Terri, I appreciate your question. I am not in the position to answer questions about this topic since I am not a trademark attorney. All I will say is re-read the post, and I believe you will find your answer. My take is this: I want to protect myself no matter what.

  12. says

    This is such valuable advice for any blogger! Well your blog is basically a bevy of good advice really :) Unfortunately I think that this is another case of people really undervaluing bloggers and their content. Hopefully events like Evolving Influence will change this in the fashion industry. Keep up the good work lovely x
    Wikigirl’s latest post: Brisbane Fashion Industry meetupMy Profile

  13. says

    Thank you all for your comments. It pains me that we’re all learning about this because one of our own has been the unfortunate victim of copyright infringement. But I know Jennine will prevail. #teamjennine!

  14. says

    This has become a war. Inadvertently, everyone in the blogging world has learned something important this week due to your blog post. It saddens me that the imposter’s have threatened to sue. This is just low on so many terms and you’re breakdown of copyrights and trademarks have been of a great help.
    lauren nicole jordan’s latest post: It’s about that timeMy Profile

  15. says

    Fantastic, informative post as ever from you! I think this is a great wake-up call to all bloggers to become smarter on, not only trademarking and copyrighting, but in all areas of business if you want to be taken seriously. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the response on Jennine’s site from “the others”. I really do hope she gets justice, I can’t begin to think how she must be feeling right now!
    After this I am now thinking of remodelling my blog, putting in a TM mark on my header, will take a bit of time, but will put my mind at rest knowing it could help a little bit!
    Thank you V! Looking forward to reading what you have to say about copyright next!
    Much Love!
    xoxo
    Meg
    Meg’s latest post: Girl- you really got me nowMy Profile

  16. says

    This is so incredibly informative V and something I’ve been curious to learn more about since the news about The Coveted broke. Jennine has worked so hard to successfully build her brand and it just seems so unfair. I really appreciate you taking the time to provide us with the information we need to protect ourselves as bloggers. To say that you’re an amazing asset to the blogging community is an understatement. x
    brookemeagan’s latest post: A walk in the woodsMy Profile

    • says

      I’m glad you’re up on your UK law because I’m not ha ha. I think I’ll add the ™ symbol in my footer just as a back up. However I don’t think there are that many Iranian fashionista’s that share my name that would want to start a fashion blog.

      Again a really great post, informative and it’s lovely that you’re helping out and giving back to the community. I know as you said you’re not a lawyer but at least you shed light on the situation and opened bloggers eyes to the potential risks involved. I take my hate off to you!

      Blog: http://www.arashmazinani.com
      Twitter: @arashmazinani
      Arash Mazinani’s latest post: The Adonis Complex Men and Body ImageMy Profile

  17. says

    I don’t want to think if someone tries to steal the “Lee Oliveira”. I can imagine what Jennine Jacobs feels right now. She must be brave and think positive. One thing I would like to point out is the fact that all the great bloggers out there (like you and many others) are taking their time to make this a great point of view for those who are thinking to do something similar in the future. “think again!”.
    The blog world is still small but not to small for great readers and informative people find out in less the 48 hrs.
    Bloggers are very smart and quick, So.. to the company who did that to Jennine’s a BIG BOOOO and a good aussie way to say ‘SHAME ON YOU”.
    Lee x
    Lee Oliveira’s latest post: On the streets of Sydney…Hyde ParkMy Profile

  18. says

    thank you so much V for this info…now I can actually use this also in my blog…will be updating my site soon…and I already signed for the petition…I hope this will be settle soon…

    Kisses
    Sweet
    PensandLens

  19. says

    Again, thank you for your comments on this post! I’m simply doing what Jennine has been doing, just on a smaller level. Sharing information not only informs us, it binds us together, and as bloggers, that is huge. Look how far we’ve come in a year!

  20. says

    Absolutely disgusting. I have signed the petition. We all work together in the spirit of making the community better, and then someone goes and does this. Faith in humanity, -1. However, to see the community come out and with a roar reproach this… person… Faith in Humanity, +1062 (number of petition signers).

    Go get ‘em, JJ.

  21. says

    I’m a little late reading, but thanks so much for this post, V! Once again you’re going above and beyond to keep your readers and our fab Style Nation in the know. I’ve been a little distanced from the goings on with the Coveted drama, but it’s shocking and not a little eye-opening to just what people are capable of stealing. I’ve had graphics taken, layouts copied and even wording from my blog duplicated – just little things like that can make one feel incredibly taken advantage of. The idea of someone taking another blogger’s very identity is unbelievable – especially someone like Jennine who is such a pillar in the fashion blogging community. It definitely serves as a wake-up call even for small-time hobby bloggers like me. And here you are with all the details on how to make this bloggy thing work! xo

    • says

      Thank you, Casee! Even I learned a lot writing this post. I had no idea that our blog identities are NOT protected by copyright laws. Glad you found this post helpful!

  22. says

    Hi V, this is a great post. Thank you for taking the time to put it together. You were so supportive when I was posting about my Elle.es stuff, so I thought I’d update you:

    In my case, it wasn’t a TM issue, but copyright infringement of my photos. Because of the absurdly unprofessional way the blogger and her boss – the editor – behaved (and if you’d like, email me @ jill@haybooks.com and I’ll send you a PDF we put together of the evidence – it’s a hilarious read, how much they messed up), the editor asked me how much money I’d want to basically go away. It’s what a lawyer friend called ‘giving you a blank check.’

    Through a wonderful young lawyer, Lucia Rubio, in Madrid, we came up with an amount: £2300 for me, £2300 for the family of Roz, the underage girl who they posted about – and mocked. We then went thru a period of no reply, she sent several letters.. this started for me on 3rd December and was still going on by late January – and finally a Hachette Filipachi lawyer sent a letter/fax saying that Spain is a poor country and he’d offer me (no mention of Roz’s family) 250 euros. I decided at that point to let it go, and we were going to split this small amount between Lucia (she kept insisting she didn’t want the money, she was doing this to try to help all of us bloggers! She is amazing) and charity, as Roz had been in hospital.

    I THEN got a letter (via Lucia) that if I wanted the money, I’d have to sign a gagging order!

    At that point we said no thanks, and that’s been the end of it.

    When I read Jennine’s own words, describing how violated she felt, it helped me because I felt like there was something wrong with me that it hurt so much emotionally. I could read Roz’s mum’s comments pleading to take her daughter’s photo down – sounding angry, of course, but I could also sense her feeling of hopelessness. There were times when I was literally trying to drag my own photos off the post (which is now, I’m assuming, down – it was up, down, amended.. I never received a genuine, sincere apology, just excuses and justifications). In my case, it was just one post – nowhere near the seriousness of what Jennine is going thru – but having gone on that journey as long as I did, I was determined to win this small battle ON PRINCIPLE, for all of you out there. I wanted to learn the easy ‘recipe’ of how to protect our content online.

    What I learned instead is, don’t f*** with Hachette Filipacchi.

    Ironically, when I tried to go to journalists – even to online publications like the HuffPost – no one would touch my story. As my husband said, the story wasn’t worth anyone damaging their chances of one day working with Elle. And the irony is, I’ve always liked Elle magazine! I had nothing against the brand, this was just two women in the marginalised digital department of the Spanish division.

    Sorry to go on so long, but as you can imagine, I found this post really interesting, and important, and close to home. I haven’t posted streetstyle shots since this started: I’m just too afraid it will happen again. I do feel defeated and sad about my experience, and a feeling of ‘what’s the point’ has settled in, which I’m sure has affected the quality of my blog. So I don’t have anything of merit to add to this conversation – apart from really looking forward to your post on Copyright Infringement!

    Thank you – and others who have commented here – you’re amazing women.

    jill xx
    jill’s latest post: you aint never caught a rabbitMy Profile

    • says

      Jill~

      Thanks for your amazing comment, and for sharing the rest of your story. I’m so angry that you weren’t compensated appropriately for the theft of your intellectual property. That’s insane! I don’t know if that’s how things work in Spain, or what, but I cannot imagine that flying in the U.S.

      Thanks again for your kind comment. I hope you will eventually get fully back into the swing of things on your blog. This was a bitter experience and a lesson on many levels, but you musn’t let it silence you. In fact, maybe it is the catalyst for a different approach, for being a more vocal advocate about the rights on bloggers. You never know where it might lead. I realy hope maybe you will share more about this (since no gag order is on you), perhaps through IFB or on your blog.

      xo

      PS: The copyright post is already out…I linked it above (been meaning to do that), but it’s also here:
      http://www.gritandglamour.com/2011/02/07/copyright-and-image-use/

  23. says

    Thank You for this…I just got a wind that I should do this and I got so scared because I didn’t know how to complete the process. You have helped me find my way to get this done and make everything safe. Your blogs becomes your life and your baby the last thing you want is for someone to come and snatch it from underneath you.

    xoxo,
    Vogue & Vintage
    Vogue & Vintage’s latest post: PURR Fection!My Profile

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