Protecting Your Brand

Sunny Kobe Cook is a registered trademark.  That may seem “odd” for a person’s name, but while owner and advertising spokesperson for the company I founded, Sleep Country USA, the line between my personal name and “the brand” became blurred.  When other businesses began to encroach on what was my legal name, I registered it as a trademark.

This week, my husband, independent film maker John Murphy, submitted his latest script for “Mission Veritas” to the US Copyright office before sending it off to the script review service he is using.  The on-line process only cost $35 – a small price to pay to protect your creative work.

Clare Barboza is an extraordinary photographer.  Her work is featured in 3 fabulous cookbooks and even a couple of major newspapers.  You wouldn’t necessarily know the ones in the major newspapers (the same 2 shown here with her blessing)) were hers because she received NO PHOTO CREDIT.

Certainly listing the photographer’s name is a small price for a FREE photo, especially if you are the Wall Street Journal, a publication aimed at the business community.  As a subscriber to this reknown newspaper, I’m sadly disappointed they not only dropped the ball on this one, but have failed to correct the error or even apologize.

It was Clare’s Facebook post expressing her distress over the situation and the slew of outraged comments which prompted this blog.   I realized her situation is far from unique.  Many small business people and artists have their ideas, work, products and brands copied or stolen.  Often they don’t know how to protect themselves.

There are some things you can do yourself and at low cost.   Many State and U.S. Government trademark and copyright registrations are available on line.  Other web services such as LegalZoom have streamlined the process for everything from incorporation to trademark and patent applications.

Other times, you need a law firm. A firm such as Perkins Coie who have a speciality in trademarks can often protect your brand with a sternly worded letter to an infringer.  Just as there are advantages in going to a medical specialist because of the depth of their expertise, the same is true with lawyers.  A firm specializing in trademarks and copyrights may charge more per hour than your family attorney, but it will take  fewer hours and likely yield better results because they do this type of work every day.

I’m not one to run to an attorney for everything but big firms don’t hesitate to protect their brands.  A recent story in Special Events, a trade publication recounts an event coordinator who was threated with a lawsuit by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Oscar) over some statues used at an event.  Her legal bills exceeded $2000!

An internet search will uncover examples of Walt Disney Company threatening daycare centers who used the likeness of Mickey and countless other examples of BIG companies aggressively protecting their brands.

Why would they?  Why should you? Because the law requires you actively protect your brand in order to maintain your rights.  It is your brand – why would you NOT protect it?


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