Q. I am about to apply for a trademark and have been using a name like (just an example) “Modern Mayhem Studios” to conduct business under for the past few years. I would like to just trademark “Modern Mayhem” instead of “Modern Mayhem Studios” so I can establish a company name or brand. Is that okay or would I have to keep the “studios” portion of the name in there to justify my use in interstate commerce? I offer audio production services. Thanks very much in advance for your reply!
A. I haven’t thought about trademarks for some time as it’s usually copyrights we seek, so I went to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website (www.uspto.gov) to get my thoughts in order. Although Trademarks and Copyrights are both designed to protect a person’s intellectual property, they serve distinctly different purposes. According to the Copyright Office, a Copyright is “a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of ‘original works of authorship’ including, literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.” According to USPTO, “A Trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” The Trademark can apply to images that have been used by the applicant or can be new to be used by an applicant for a prospective business. Clearly you are correct to want a Trademark since you want to protect the umbrella under which your products are offered.
There are a number of steps required to apply for a Trademark. First, you must decide exactly what mark you want to protect. It can be a symbol or words or both and you must submit a clear representation of same. I doubt you would have a problem eliminating the word “studio” from your business name. However, you must be sure that the mark isn’t already being used by others. This can be done by searching for registered marks at www.spto.gov. Next, “Once you have chosen your mark, you must also be able to identify the goods and/or services to which the mark will apply, clearly and precisely. The identification of goods and/or services must be specific enough to identify the nature of the goods and/or services. The level of specificity depends on the type of goods and/or services.” This is where it can get complicated. There are specific categories of goods and it is essential to choose the correct one. Although you can do this yourself or engage an online company to do this, it might be best to hire an attorney with a background in this work. Apparently, the USPTO makes it more difficult for an applicant the second time around. I’ve always felt that it’s important for us to do the things we do best and to rely on the proven skills of others when needed; therefore, I’d hire a lawyer to get this done right the first time.