New entrepreneurs make a big mistake when developing their brand: they save the brand until the last step.
More than 650,000 patent applications were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2021, down slightly from 653,311 the previous year. However, with thousands of trademark disputes filed every year, first-time business owners must prioritize trademark logos and wordings to avoid a hefty fine.
Rosezena Pierce, founder and CEO of RJ Pierce Law Group, has often seen entrepreneurs make this costly mistake. With over ten years of experience and more than 3,200 registered trademarks, she and her team help business owners protect their brands. His portfolio includes celebrities such as Twista and Sierra Gates. Additionally, the company is ranked among the top 50 trademark companies in the country.
“The biggest misconception is that you can wait to do it until later,” says Pierce. “People think they have to do all these other things first. Then the trademark is something they can revisit later when it’s the complete opposite. I always ask people, ‘Will you build a house on land you don’t own?’ A lot of times people think, “Oh, I have to get my LLC first. I need to get my bank account and EIN number. I need to collect my product packaging or marketing materials. And then I have to make money. Then I will think about the brand.
Here’s the thing, you can do all of this first. But if someone tracks that name you just attached to that LLC, that bank account, or those products, packaging, or marketing materials, they’re sending you a cease and desist letter. Now they demand that you give them product packaging or marketing materials. You may have wasted the money, time, and resources you invested in building a new brand.
When Pierce started law school, she already had two children, and during her last semester she gave birth to a baby girl. She had the opportunity to stay home and study for bar, which made her realize that she loved being home with her children. At the time, she met a mentor who taught her how to start her own law practice; he helped her see how she could represent underserved small business owners.
Pierce marketed his services on social media and attended business networking events. Through her connections, she met managers, assistants, and celebrity friends who helped her grow her company’s entertainment vertical. Over the years, Pierce has gone from working with clients to being the face of the company through speaking engagements and educational workshops.
“It was time for me to think about growing the business,” smiles Pierce. “I changed my mindset to say, ‘Okay, it’s time to grow this business. I can’t be in everyday life. I have to get out of this and have a team of leaders.
Pierce emphasizes the importance of creating a distinctive name when creating a brand or product; the more unique it is, the better the chances of receiving the mark. Additionally, using original wording will deter competitors from using the same; when descriptive terms are used, there is a higher likelihood that others in the same industry will also use the same detailed wording.
Many new business owners think they are legally protected if they add a trademark symbol to their brand. However, the opposite is true. All the symbol does is show that you were using it, and most likely in the application process. It is only when the USPTO approves the application and issues the trademark that a name or logo is legally protected.
As Pierce continues to expand her business and her transition as a leader, she is focused on the following critical milestones:
- Make sure you are comfortable with your decision. Take the time to research and navigate the new vertical you are pivoting to.
- Create a different platform of who you want to be that will attract future clients or employers.
- Be confident in your decision. Speak with authority when you share your next move, it builds buy-in.
“I believe there are so many entrepreneurs trying to become leaders and CEOs,” Pierce concludes. “I believe that as good leaders, we understand that we don’t have to be the smartest people in the room; we need to hire experts.