The other day I was sitting at the park with some friends and family. A friend of my sister’s was talking about how she’s starting her own business. I asked her about her business and she brought up the inevitable questions every new business owner asks, like how or if she should form an LLC.
At one point she shared her ideas for a business name. She said she tried to get a particular name, but it wasn’t available.
I asked what she meant by trying to “get the name.” She said she looked up the name on Google and the domain was already taken. She certainly wasn’t talking about whether the trademark was for sale.
This is what most people do when they are trying to come up with a name for a new business. They google the name of interest. Then they find a reputable company selling that name as a domain name – a dot-com domain ideally – they purchase it, and then voila! They own the domain name.
If you’ve been following this blog, you already know a domain name is not a brand name. If you really want to know if a name is available, you should not only search on Google, but also do a trademark search. If someone else owns a trademark for the name used in the domain that you are interested in, for the same type of business, then you should find another name.
- But How Do You Know if a Trademark for Sale is Legit?
But that’s just the minimum due diligence required; if somebody in your industry owns a spelling variation or foreign translation of your name, or even a partial match, you should probably find another name as well.
One easy way to find a new business name, and secure a registered U.S. trademark for that brand name, is to purchase an existing trademark for sale. By doing so, you are actually buying a brand name, not just a domain. In many cases, you can purchase a trademark and a domain at the same time.
But How Do You Know if a Trademark for Sale is Legit?
There are only a handful of trademark marketplaces that sell brand names because it’s a new industry. Already we’re seeing that many of the newer trademark marketplaces have fraudulent trademarks for sale.
World Trademark Review, a legal trade publication, reports that the selling of fraudulent trademarks is so rampant that the USPTO director is urging extreme caution when buying from the other existing trademark marketplaces online. In fact, the article mentions Communer as one of the only safe and reputable places to buy a trademark.
Here’s what you should look out for when shopping for a trademark:
1. Is the trademark marketplace legitimate?
Anyone can set up a website and sell intangible goods. In order to make sure the trademark marketplace you are purchasing from is legit, you should check online reviews, especially Google reviews to see what others are saying about the company. You can also google the company to see if there are any news articles, positive or negative, about the company. Can you find evidence of happy customers? More importantly, are there unhappy customers?
2. Is the trademark you’re purchasing valid and verified?
If you find a trademark you’re interested in, look up the serial number at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website here. Then check the following items:
- Is the trademark valid? It should say ‘LIVE/REGISTRATION/Issued and Active. The trademark application has been registered with the Office.’
- Is there any action being taken against this trademark? You can check this in the ‘Maintenance’ section and check the ‘Documents’ tab for more information.
- Does the trademark marketplace verify seller ownership of each trademark?
3. Will you get a refund if the trademark does not successfully transfer to you?
Any reputable company will hold your funds in escrow and not pay out the seller of the trademark until the assets are successfully transferred to you.
4. Do they guarantee Amazon Brand Registry?
If the company selling the trademark guarantees Amazon Brand Registry, this is a red flag. Only Amazon determines Amazon Brand Registry, so no entity outside of Amazon can guarantee it. The trademark marketplace can help you get Amazon Brand Registry and refund you if Amazon Brand Registry is not possible for some reason, like we do at Communer, but if they promise you Amazon Brand Registry, that’s fishy.
5. Are the trademarks all the same price?
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you want to trust that the trademark marketplace is assessing each trademark carefully and not pricing every trademark at around the same price. At Communer, we appraise each mark we allow sellers to list and we note our Markhound Appraisal® above the listing price. The seller determines the listing price, so the two numbers are often different. We wish we could sell all the trademarks at a very low price, but some names are more valuable than others, especially when they come with a matching dot-com domain. Also, some sellers want more money for their marks because they know it has intangible value, or, in some cases, they’re just unrealistic.
Buying a trademark is a serious business and legal transaction. You should not purchase something if you’re uneasy with the seller or the marketplace. Don’t take any chances with your purchase. Use a marketplace that verifies seller ownership, secures the transaction, and makes sure you get what you’re paying for.