7 steps to determine whether or not your logo, brand name, or idea is already being used

Steps:

  1. Go to Google.com and type in your logo,brand name, or idea and the word or any of a dozen or so other words that could describe your idea as it relates to your industry.
    • Find it? You’re probably done. Go to Step 4.
    • Didn’t find it? Try again. Vary the search terms and words, try synonyms.
    • REALLY didn’t find it? Go to step 2.
  2. Congratulations you’ve already completed more research than many entrepreneurs I know. Continue to step 3.
  3. Go to Google Images search (http://www.google.com/imghp) repeat the search from Step 1.
    • Find it? You’re probably done. Go to Step 4.
    • Didn’t find it? Try again. Vary the search terms and words, try synonyms
    • REALLY didn’t find it? Go to step 6.
  4. Found it? Bummer. But maybe that’s ok. Find out where and how it’s being used. Contact them and ask if you can use it. It’s often best if you call.
    • Did they say yes? Great. Agree on how, where, and when you can use the mark and get it in writing. Go to Step 5.
    • No, huh? Well, as a last ditch attempt, go to step 7.
  5. Talk to a lawyer that does trademark work.
    • Make sure that your agreement protects you and your investment in the mark. Cover yourself against the other party’s bad business decisions and calamities.
  6. Talk to a lawyer that does trademark work.
    • If you really have come up with something new or that no one else is using, you might want to protect your rights in it.
    • Things to think about include:
      • Formal Trademark search and clearance

      • Federal registration (you know, the “®” symbol)

      • State registration

      • What does the little “TM” mean?

      • Licensing

      • Use “in commerce”

  7. Talk to a lawyer that does trademark work.
    • If you really think you should be able to use the mark and someone else has something close, talk to a trademark lawyer, there may be sufficient gray area that you could use it with impunity, or with little risk. But don’t make this call on your own. It may be the difference between an honest mistake/disagreement and knowingly infringing on someone else’s mark.
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