Trademark Brokers: What to Look for

Cartoon of a trademark broker by Jeremy Eche.

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The pickings are slim. There aren’t a lot of trademark brokers out there because trademark sales are a niche market. Most trademark sellers aren’t just selling trademarks; they’re selling entire businesses. Thus there are many business brokers and few brokers of trademarks.

Because of this, somebody looking for a trademark broker is probably going to be choosing from a short list of one or two conventional brokers and a few online trademark marketplaces. In this article I’m going to try to help you understand what you should be looking for when you want to sell your trademark through a broker.

A good trademark broker and a good business broker have very different skill sets. A much more analogous job is that of a domain name broker. Good domain name brokers should serve as models for trademark brokers.

My Own Experience with a Good Broker

In my domain name selling heyday, I owned around 200 domain names, most of them political, and I was content to park them on domain name marketplaces like Sedo. In 2015 I sold BidenWarren.com and Cruz2016.com for $1,500 each without the help of a broker. 

Strangely, the domain name where I ended up needing a broker was the one that should have been the easiest to sell: ClintonKaine.com. When Hillary Clinton announced Tim Kaine as her running mate in 2016, I thought I had hit the jackpot. In a further stroke of good luck, it turned out that a client of mine had a close connection to Clinton’s digital campaign director, and a phone call was arranged. 

Sadly, the phone call did not go how I expected. The Clinton campaign had no budget for a domain name purchase like this, the director told me. The most they could offer me was about $2,000, she said, adding that she knew I probably wouldn’t accept that offer. 

This disaster sent me into a depression. The most obvious buyer for my premium domain name didn’t want it. In desperation, I went back to an email in my inbox that I had earlier disregarded. A domain name broker from Flippa had reached out asking to represent me for the sale of this mark in exchange for an exclusivity agreement and a relatively high commission of 25%. 

I emailed him back and we came to an agreement. He would represent me on this deal and I authorized him to accept any offer of at least $15,000, which was my target sale price. Within about a week, he told me he had found a buyer willing to pay that price, and they were hammering out the deal. I was ecstatic. The deal succeeded and I had the money in my account a few days later. 

This personal experience with a great broker has stuck with me and I’ve kept it in mind when building Communer, my own trademark marketplace that also performs many of the services of a broker.

The Attributes of a Great Trademark Broker

A great trademark broker, like a great domain name broker, should possess the following qualities:

1. Access to a strong network of buyers

Access to buyers is probably the single most important asset of a broker. Without it, there isn’t much reason to hire a broker rather than trying to reach out to buyers yourself.

One way or another, my domain name broker had access to somebody who wanted to buy my domain name, and was in contact with him quickly. This was crucial for my sale. I suspect the broker imagined this deal before even reaching out to me, contacting the buyer as soon as I agreed to let him represent me. 

In the trademark field, a good broker will have real connections to thousands of likely trademark buyers, possibly tens of thousands. These could be serial entrepreneurs, holding companies, trademark speculators, or trademark applicants whose trademark applications have been rejected. 

2. An expert’s view of the marketplace

A great broker should have extensive experience in the trademark field supplemented by countless hours of research. They should have knowledge of every industry and the relative values of trademarks in each one. They should be able to tell you how much your trademark is worth, whether it’s registered for dietary supplements, clothing, or restaurant services. 

Not only should they have unmatched knowledge of trademark values in each industry, but they should also have a great fundamental understanding of what makes a particular trademark valuable. How strong is the trademark? How distinct is it? How good is it for SEO? How appealing will it be to buyers? How valuable is the domain name attached to it, if it comes with one? Does it leave room to expand into other industries?

Without that industry knowledge, a broker can’t give you a valuation for your trademark. Without a valuation for your trademark, you’ll have a much harder time selling it for the correct amount. 

3. Resourcefulness and cleverness

This quality is less important than the other two, but a good broker should be a good abstract thinker. They should be able to make non-obvious connections that result in sales to buyers that most sellers wouldn’t have thought to contact. Many trademarks are valuable to different companies for different reasons and a good broker should be able to figure out these alternate types of buyers.

Marketplaces vs. Brokers

Sometimes online trademark marketplaces are also brokers. Usually they’re not. If a marketplace charges you to put your listing up and doesn’t take a commission, they’re not a brokerage. This only make money from attracting sellers, and not from attracting buyers (link to blog post). They have no motivation to help you sell your trademark once it’s on their marketplace. In many cases, they benefit from your failure to sell your trademark because they charge a monthly or yearly listing fee. 

A real broker will take a commission from your sale. They make most (ideally all) of their money from successful sales. In other words, they are economically aligned with you, the trademark seller, and you can trust that they’re motivated to find a buyer for your trademark.

Putting your trademark up on an online marketplace is certainly one way to reach potential buyers, even if the marketplace does no extra work on your behalf. However, most potential buyers probably even don’t know that trademark marketplaces exist, and won’t be browsing them.

Standard trademark marketplaces are also usually extremely difficult to navigate and sort, and are packed full of worthless, overpriced, and unverified trademarks. But broker-marketplace hybrids are incentivized to limit the number of sellers on their websites and make their online marketplaces navigable.

Additionally, like a conventional broker, a trademark exchange following the broker model markets the trademarks listed on its marketplace. They don’t simply display a trademark on a webpage and forget about it the way other trademark marketplaces do.

They leverage connections to thousands of potential trademark buyers through their affiliates such as law firms and branding agencies. These affiliates are regularly in contact with a high volume of potential trademark buyers and have a good idea of who’s in the market for specific types of trademarks. A good broker-style marketplace also runs ads for specific categories of trademarks, targeting keywords commonly searched by trademark buyers. This significantly increases the chances of selling a trademark for the highest possible price and in the shortest amount of time. 

The Best Choice: Communer

I founded Communer because, as the attorney of record on over 2,500 successfully registered U.S. trademarks, I realized that my extensive knowledge of the trademark field made me an ideal broker. I know the costs and risks involved in filing a trademark application and how long it takes to reach registration. I know how much it costs my clients in different industries when they’re unable to reap the benefits of a registered trademark. I’ve also negotiated many trademarks sales between my clients and other parties. 

Because of all this, I have a strong sense of the value of any given trademark registration. I put it to great use when I provide trademark valuations for sellers on Communer.

My law firm, JPG Legal, serves as an affiliate for Communer, referring clients and visitors to Communer through its website and email marketing. Because of this, trademarks listed on Communer benefit from a network of thousands of clients and a monthly law firm advertising budget of about $25,000. This budget is, of course, separate from Communer’s own advertising budget and the budgets of other affiliates in Communer’s referral network.

For these reasons, whether you’re looking for a broker or a marketplace, I believe Communer is the best choice out there for selling a trademark. Our reach and our knowledge are unmatched in the trademark exchange industry.

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