Are you a business owner with some kind of online program? If so, you've come to the right blog post.
As a business attorney, I work with lots of solo entrepreneurs, personal brands, and influencers. Many of them have some kind of online program that they offer to their customers.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you're preparing to launch your next big program — whether it's an online course, a membership program, a mastermind, or something else. The creative side of you keeps toying around with what you're going to call this thing. You want the name to capture how awesome this is AND be on brand for you AND be unique.
You work your way through the naming process:
Whether you skipped some of these steps or not, there's one step you definitely don't want to ignore.
You might have thought about trademarks when it comes to things like the name of your business. But the name of your program?!
YES! Trademarks can also protect the names of your programs!!
So many business owners don't think about this side of things. And it can have serious consequences.
If you take a look at the major players in the online course space, you'll see that they take this trademark stuff seriously.
Here are just some examples of super successful online business owners with registered trademarks for their programs:
And the list goes on!
If you're working on an online program — or you already have one — here are three things to consider on the trademark side of things to keep your brand protected.
I don’t just mean a simple Google search, or checking that the domain is available, or researching the various social media platforms you want to use. (BTW: If you haven’t done that, here’s an awesome free tool to help you with all that.)
You need to ALSO run a proper trademark search. The best way to do this is to run a search directly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The big thing to keep in mind here is that you SHOULD NOT run a search just for the name you want. You could be infringing on someone’s trademark even if your name is slightly similar.
Hey, I’m all for keeping things simple. Maybe you just want to name the course something that really “hits the nail on the head.” An example of this would be something like “The Wedding Photography Course.” Or even our own “PowerBrand.”
It can be strategic to name something generic — it helps people immediately know what the thing is.
But those benefits also come at a cost.
Here's the problem: you don’t get to have a monopoly on a super generic name. And while you probably won’t run into someone else calling you out for trademark infringement . . . you don’t get exclusive dibs on it either.
So if someone else — whether it’s a competitor or not — likes what you’re doing and comes out with a course called the same thing, there’s not really much you can do to stop them.
You might be okay with that risk for now. But what about in 2-3 years? What about when your course becomes super successful and you’ve caused a bunch of leads to search for that phrase and they end up buying another course from another business instead?
Just keep this all in mind — and consider reevaluating any program names as they become more valuable assets to your business.
As I covered in a recent blog post, "The best way to protect your trademarks is to get your trademark registered at the federal level. This U.S. registration gives you exclusive rights to your trademark across the United States." (Read the full post here.)
Like the successful online business owners I've mentioned above, at some point you'll want to secure registered trademarks to the names of your online products and services.
Otherwise, you're really putting your business and your revenue in jeopardy. I don't have to tell you how crowded this online marketplace is getting.
And I'd hate for you to run into legal issues because you failed to be proactive about this kind of thing sooner.
Securing trademark rights is critical to growing businesses. And while it might be best to hire a lawyer to assist you with the process, this is something you can do on your own with proper guidance.
That's why I launched PowerBrand, an online course that helps you protect your trademarks. This 6-module course teaches you what you need to know about trademarks, guides you through the search and application process, and highlights the most common mistakes business owners make.