Blogging has become a reliable source of income for many moms, crafters, outdoorsmen, and travelers. Blogging comes with a whole set of questions, one of which is “should I get a trademark?”
If a blogger intends to make a profit, they should trademark their blog name and any images associated with their blog to protect their rights to them. Trademark registration isn’t necessary for bloggers, but it can give bloggers more legal credibility in their ownership of such names and images.
While some bloggers should get a trademark, it’s not required for all bloggers. Read on to see what options are best for you.
Do I Need to Trademark Anything on My Blog?
Blogging as a Hobby
If you are blogging for fun, you don’t need any registered trademarks. Registered trademarks protect words and images related to a product or service. This means that if you don’t intend to make a profit from your blog, you won’t technically qualify for trademark registration. You only need to apply for a trademark if your blog will be used for the purpose of generating income.
While it’s not necessary to register your trademarks, you should still be aware of other registered trademarks out there so you don’t risk accidentally infringing another’s property. Complete a search for other trademarks that are similar to yours to ensure that your blog name is unique and all of the images associated with it are not already trademarked.
Blogging for Income
If you are using your blog for profit currently, you will be able to apply for a trademark, and you should. It’s not legally required for your blog to have a registered trademark, but with the ever-increasing number of blogs out there, it’s a good idea to trademark your blog’s defining words and images. This will protect your rights to the ownership of your images and words, and it will protect you from infringing another blogger’s work.
If you are just starting a blog, but you intend to make a profit from it, you can apply for trademark registration with an ITU (intent to use) application. The ITU allows you to register a trademark while it isn’t yet in use—you just have to prove that you intend to use the mark commercially.
More often, the best route to take is to build your blog up to the point of making a profit before registering for a trademark. This eliminates the ITU application and increases your chances of getting your trademark registered.
What to Trademark on Your Blog
A blogger should trademark any image, word, or phrase that represents or directly links to their blog. To be more specific, you should trademark your blog name and any images that are used to identify your blog, like a logo.
With 600 million blogs out there, it seems pretty likely that some bloggers have chosen the same name. If you want to ensure that your blog is protected and that you always have the rights to your blog, you should register your blog’s name as a trademark. When you register your blog name, you will need to register for what’s called a wordmark. The wordmark will protect your rights to the word or phrase you’ve chosen for your title in any font or stylization. This means that you have the rights to the word or phrase, not just a stylized logo-type version of your name.
You may also register a stylized version of your name as a designmark, but it may not be necessary.
Images and Designs
Any images that are directly related to your blog should be trademarked to preserve your rights to them.
Most blogs have a main design that works like a logo. This design or image distinguishes the blog from the plethora of blogs on the internet. You can apply to register this logo as a designmark.
Any other images or designs that readers recognize and connect to your blog may also be trademarked. That being said, you can’t trademark a theme. For example, if your blog has a pale pink and robin’s egg blue theme and you use a lot of stripes in backgrounds and on icons, you can’t protect that and keep anyone from using it. That can be copied by any other blogger and not be considered infringement.
Most often, the only image you will need to trademark is your logo-type image. Check out this article to learn more about what a blogger should be trademarked. [Insert link to “what things should bloggers trademark?” from the same site.]
Search for Similar Trademarks
Whether or not you decide to apply for trademark registration, you should search for trademarks that are similar to the ones you want to use. First conduct a Google search, looking for the following:
- Similar blog titles
- Phonetically similar titles
- Similar images
If you come across any blogs with similar titles or with images that bear resemblance to yours, you might want to alter your blog title and the corresponding designs. If you don’t intend to register for a trademark, you can still be accused of infringement if you use a design or name that is similar to another blog. If you start using the name or image first, then you will have rights to the name or image, but if the other blogger used the image first, you could face an infringement lawsuit.
After you’ve looked through Google, search the database on the USPTO website, TESS (trademark electronic search system). Once here, you will need to use a code to search for designs. This class designates online publications and should return any trademarks on blogs.
In addition to these, be careful that you don’t use any designs that are similar to any other famous marks, as this could be considered “dilution of famous marks.” For example, using an apple with a bite taken out of it for a tech blog could dilute the Apple brand and cause confusion even though the blog isn’t selling computers, phones, or other devices. (Source)
Register for a Trademark
When you register for a trademark as a blogger, you will want to register with the USPTO. As a blogger, you will typically want to register for class 41, for online publications. In addition to your class, you will need to provide the following information on your application:
- Blog information
- Name associated with the words or designs
- Type of trademark (wordmark, designmark, combined)
- ITU or currently in use
After you’ve applied, wait for the office to contact you about your application. If your image or words are too similar to another, or if the information you provided was inaccurate, you may be rejected. If no issues are found, you will gain more rights and credibility to your blog name and all the images trademarked with it.