Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to Trademark Properly

When I started my publishing company in 2012, I thought I should have a trademarked name to identify my writings - books, ebooks, articles essays, etc. I thought it was a good identifier for my style of writing and chose a name representative of my major life theme. After two years of futzin' through the USPTO's technical and legal language, I have to tell you, they don't make anything clear.

I have technically ABANDONED my original name, a. because I thought I knew what I was doing yet didn't read the fine print, and b. their website pages are sometimes clear, but too often muddy, vague and unclear.

For example, let's say the name was "Rod's Writings." 
First I did a free trademark lookup and it wasn't taken. Good.
Second I logged into their TEAS system and filed an application. An electronic signature was all that was required and that passed.   

Then it went to a very nice USPTO lawyer for review and approval on its way to getting "registered," That required filing A Statement of Use specifying that I planned to use this name "Rodney's Writings" in my publications commercially. During that process I had to choose the categories of my publications so I chose Class 009 for ebooks etc, and 016 for hard/softcover works. Easy enough. I completed all my contact info, paid $250 each per class, and the process was over. I thought.

I thought that was it until I received by email a Letter of Action against my filing for non-compliance. This started me down the rabbit hole trying to correct whatever problem 'they' had found. 
I couldn't find a specific reason why my filing was deficient. Could it be because I only published in class 016 so far, and not in Class 009? I couldn't be sure after intensive site readings.I pondered releasing my obsolete book as an ebook and all that would entail, but then received a "Notice of Abandonment, and it was recorded and publicized in the Federal Register!  

However, I found a webpage that said I could "Revive" my application by paying an additional one hundred bucks. This was getting expensive, But I was willing to do it to save my $500 I'd already put out. However, scanning the USPTO website, I still wasn't certain what they required. So very confused, I emailed my congressman Chris Smith, who's office has been very responsive in helping to straighten the mess out. Too bad however, that if they wrote to USPTO for an explanation, USPTO had 45 days to respond, well past my deadline for filing a "revival." By this time I only had days to respond.

But Smith's Office pointed out a Tech Center number to call which I did and was switched to the USPTO. There I was told to file a revive notice or it would be lost. That was no help. So I went online and filled out the Petition to Revive Form online, which meant answering very unclear questions. But I did, got a "Confirm" button to click and pay, and entered credit card data.

Boom! "Error 99 Failure" I tried another valid credit card and Boom! again. I called Tech Support, held for 10 minutes then finally hung up clicking the ebusiness Tech Center link on the failure page for help. But guess what? That number/site is no longer in service! 

So, in desperation I called the lawyer, a real nice guy, who actually answered his phone personally on the first ring. We chatted. I tried again. No go. Called him back but this time I pumped out more info. For one, I had to have published a "series of books" for the trademark to be effective. Who knew that? They didn't make it clear I can tell you.

Second, the lawyer said it had been over two years and the application could not be revived. Ever. Deadlines had been passed unbeknownst to me. And another thing, did you know that during the trademark "process" you can only use the symbol TM next to your name? Yeah, that was a secret also.

Frustrating, yes. A waste of money, time and effort, Yes. But now that I know, I'll do it all right when my second book is ready for publication, no big deal.

Oh, the good part, I almost forgot. The USPTO has reduced its trademark fee to only $225 each.
We'll see how long that lasts.

Good luck, best, Rod




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