Something to Learn…
At the Licensing Expo, you often hear about trademarks. And just about every writer I know has no real understanding about trademarks. Sadly, fiction writers know little to nothing about copyright, let alone a trademark.
Trademark is something that you have been making money on. It is a business tool to protect something you have been making money on, such as a business name.
So here are some really, really basic things a writer needs to understand without me writing a book trying to explain the details. (The TRADEMARK book by Fishman from LOLO Press will give you a basic, bare-bones start, which is all you need to start, actually. Common Law in the trademark area is so complex, it just turns into a giant blur.)
SO THIS IS JUST BASICS, MADE AS SIMPLE AS I CAN MAKE THEM. DON’T HURT ME, LAWYERS… TEACHING HERE…
1… Trademarks can either be strong or weak or somewhere in the middle. WMG Publishing is a very weak mark for a billion reasons. Pulphouse Publishing Inc is a strong mark for a different billion reasons. We have been making money fairly consistently since 1987 with the brand Pulphouse. It is well protected and established.
2… In the United States, the first to use a trademark wins. Making consistent money wins over someone new making no money.
3… Registration of Trademarks is a fools game and can cause you more troubles than you get benefits in return. But sometimes you just have to do it. That is when real problems start.
4… There is a national US registration of trademark under the Lanham Act, all 50 US States can also register trademarks, every country on the planet can register trademarks, often in many different jurisdictions inside each country. Just because you registered a mark in Idaho does not mean it is protected in any way in Spain. Just saying. And don’t forget there are a lot of categories to register a copyright. You got to put it in the right one.
5… You are responsible for your own trademark searches. Costs money to have it done, or you can do it through TESS. Either way is far, far from accurate.
6… Know the difference between a trademark and a service mark.
And so much more.
So, the point of focusing on this stupidity of trademark (and there is a ton more, trust me), at the Licensing Expo you will hear talk about this sort of thing. And you may, in a licensing agreement, be forced to get a trademark on something you are trying to protect. You will need an IP attorney to do that, but spending some time over the next year or two, as you learn copyright, trying to understand some trademark basics as well will help you.
In other words, this is one of the learning curves I mention on heading into Licensing.