Marketing 101: Product differentiation is better than no product differentiation, from the point of view of customers and investors. With the recent rise in cryptocurrency products, it can be hard to remember the different logos, names, and slogans of similar sounding products (Ethereum? Altcoin? Ripple? Litecoin?). In fact, it would be hard to even recall the logos of each without further prompting.
Enter trademarks. A trademark can help startups protect their “name, logo, or slogan.” Think about the most well-known companies (Google, Microsoft, McDonald's)—all trademarked! A trademark can help a startup create brand value (see above for Marketing 101 review) through its recognizable name, logo, and/or slogan. We expect to see a race in cryptocurrency—especially in companies that are looking for an ICO (more on that later)—and with any competitive playing field, we expect to see startups look for anything that will give them an edge. Trademark protection can give startups a big advantage over their competition. In fact, if you’re working in any business capacity around cryptocurrency, you should file for a trademark quickly, before someone else takes your brand!
A Little Background About Trademarks
The best way for a startup to protect its name, logo, or slogan—is to apply for a registered trademark through your relevant government office (in the US, that means the USPTO). In the trademark application, you’ll need to include the trademark itself, as well as the class(es) that describe the goods and/or services that you want to sell under the trademark.
There are special criteria that the USPTO will use to judge your application. For example, your trademark can’t be “descriptive” nor can it closely resemble an already registered trademark—all the more reason to trademark first, before your competitors! A trademark can offer you ample opportunity to rise above a crowded, undifferentiated playing field.
If you’re concerned about the criteria, you can find out more information here.
And what happens after your trademark application is accepted?
Your trademark becomes a registered mark—and you can use the famous “circle-R” or ® symbol next to it!
In the US, both before your trademark is registered and periodically after registration, you will have show use in commerce. “Use in commerce” means that money needs to change hands for a good and/or service identified with your trademark. The relevant good and/or service is defined by your trademark application, so if you applied for protection for your trademark for cosmetics, then you’ll need to show cosmetic sales. Or, in the case of cryptocurrency, you would need to show that your “use in commerce” is related to the activity you are trademarking.
A quick search in the USPTO Trademark registry for the term “bitcoin” shows 56 results (and remember—that’s not looking at technological innovations—that would be a patent search). One example, below, shows a trademark for “collectible objects and figurines containing cryptocurrency”—therefore, its use in commerce will be limited to the description.
Note: This was a random example! No judgments for or against the trademark!
However, if you would like our judgment—or better yet, advice—on whether a trademark or other intellectual property is the right strategic move for your startup, we’re happy to offer our services. Simply e-mail us for a free 30-minute consultation on your idea, and we’ll set you up to chat with one of our patent experts.
Wondering if your idea is patentable? Have a question about this article? We can answer all of your questions — just hit "contact us" down below!