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Personal Branding

Legally Protect your Personal Brand with Trademarks ft. Sarah Waldbuesser

Legally Protect your Personal Brand with Trademarks ft. Sarah Waldbuesser | The Business Minimalist™ Podcast with Jade Boyd
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MBA | Business Strategist | Productivity Coach | I help busy service providers bring order to chaos with minimalist strategies and systems.

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I hired Sarah as my trademark attorney after going through a nightmare experience with my previous attorney – a story that I share in more detail during this episode! I’ve learned so much about trademark applications from working with Sarah, and I’m thrilled to bring her to the podcast today to simplify the ins and outs of protecting your brand for you too.

Sarah Waldbuesser is an attorney for coaches and online business owners.  After several years at a law firm and a few career jumps, she ended up falling in love with online business and loves helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams in a smart and protected way.  She is also an adventurer, traveler, and food and wine lover. When we recorded this episode, she and her family were enjoying a 90 day adventure in Italy!

In this episode, Sarah provides a simple checklist for legally protecting your online service business. We also dive deep into everything you need to know about legally protecting your business and personal brand with trademarks. If you’re overwhelmed by legalese, the thought of being sued, or the possibility of someone stealing your program name or framework, this episode is for you! Tune in to learn when to think about filing a trademark application and what to expect after you file.

Legally Protect your Personal Brand with Trademarks ft. Sarah Waldbuesser | The Business Minimalist™ Podcast with Jade Boyd

Key Takeaways from this Episode

  • How Sarah stumbled upon her business
  • Sarah’s basic legal checklist for any business owner
  • Best practices for writing and signing contracts
  • Tips for starting your LLC with Sarah’s templates
  • The difference between a copyright and a trademark
  • Why it’s important to trademark your small business
  • How to protect your brand or service with a trademark
  • The importance of hiring the right attorney and my personal story of why I hired Sarah
  • What to look for in a good attorney for a successful trademark experience
  • Sarah’s favorite productivity hack and book recommendation

Connect with Sarah

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode


Click here to read the full episode transcript!

Sarah Waldbuesser: If you got an email tomorrow with the cease and desist letter saying somebody else has trademarked it and you have to rebrand in 10 days, how would you feel about it?

Jade Boyd: Welcome to the show, Sarah.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Thank you so much for having me.

Jade Boyd: Yeah, I am really excited to have this conversation. So I’ve been working with Sarah for almost a year now on my own trademark application process, and she has just been a saint to work with. And we’ll get into that and my experience with the previous trademark lawyer, later in the episode, but why don’t we just start off for those who don’t know you, just tell us a little bit more about who you are, what you do and kind of how you got to where you are today?

Because the legal industry and going to law school and then the profession and the business that you have today are very different. So I would love to know how that story unfolded.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll try to keep it semi short. So I’m Sarah Waldbuesser. I’m an attorney and founder of Destination Legal, and, I help online business owners and coaches legally protect their businesses. And the way that we do that is really through two different avenues. One is we have a template shop where we sell downloadable, do it yourself, and then the other side is offering done for you registered trademarks, which I know we’re going to touch on a little bit of both. I’ve been doing this for almost eight years now. When I first started, Destination Legal, the idea of an online legal anything was very new. It was very, very new. There weren’t a lot of attorneys doing this. Now there are a lot of attorneys doing this, but it was kind of a new field because a lot of attorneys were scared to work online and how do you do this? And what about states and all that kind of stuff?

So it was a lot of figuring things out, but it kind of happened gradually because I didn’t like being a lawyer. I was a lawyer at a firm in Washington, D. C., and, you know, within six months of being there, when I was 25, after having, gone to law school and taken the bar exam, I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I didn’t want to be a partner. I didn’t want to sit in a corner office. I didn’t want to work 80 hour weeks.

Like, it was just never my jam to be a workaholic like that. And so I stuck it out for two years there, but I was looking for other things to do and I wanted thing something that was going to be inspiring I wanted to help people I ended up going back to school for my master’s in public health and doing international legal work in the global health field it’s like very random not worth diving into but for a moment, I thought it was my dream job because I got to travel, I got to travel to Africa and Asia and the Middle East and, you know, see all these amazing places.

But really, I was doing that for maybe two months of the year and the other 10 months I was writing reports for the government that nobody ever read. You know, I worked at a think tank, I worked at a university and I was just miserable. And about 10 years ago, I was Googling, travel while you work. I have a huge passion for travel. I just wanted flexibility. So I was like, well, I could be a travel agent. What else is there? And I found a podcast that these two guys had started. You know, this was back in 2012 or so. And, they were living in Bali and running e commerce stores from their laptops.

And I was like, wow, you can run a business from your computer and live anywhere? Like, what is this thing called a digital nomad? Sign me up. So I used to listen to this podcast, like to and from my, walking in, Washington, DC every day to and from work and a few months into it, they offered a two week course in an island in the Philippines where they were going to teach you how to run an online business.

So I was like, done, sold, quit my job. I cashed in my 401k and a month later I was on an island in the Philippines and my first business was called the Bootstrap Lawyer. And it was very different from what I do today. I didn’t know what I was doing. As I said, like nobody was doing this. There weren’t models, there weren’t really people to look at, so it didn’t last long, it lasted maybe four to six months, and that started sort of a two year journey, which eventually ended in Destination Legal, but included consulting and starting an e commerce store, and, you know, I did become a digital nomad, and I was living in Thailand and Vietnam, and and Europe and I kept meeting all these other business owners that kept asking me for help and they wanted a contract and a privacy policy and Sarah, what do I do?

Can you look at this? And eventually I landed back in the US and stumbled upon the coaching world. I thought for a hot second, I might want to be a health coach. I had gotten a life coach and I found this whole world and it was through that and through my own group coaching programs where people again just kept asking me for help and so even though at the very beginning I tried to kind of have a business that was both business coaching and legal, everyone just wanted legal. So, you know, it wasn’t really working trying to do both and I had a very very much like, you know ish get off the pot I don’t know if we can curse on here but it was ish get off the pot and you know, my dad was like you need to start sending resumes to law firms.

I was like living in Chicago. I had to ask them to help pay money for rent. And so I was like, okay, you know what, I’m just going to try this legal thing. Let’s give it a shot. Like this is, I know it’s needed. I know I can help and let’s just try it. And so within a month I had sold like, four to 5, 000 in like legal templates and stuff. And it was just the. that was the beginning and it was the universe kind of showing me that you were doing the right thing. And so that was the beginning of, of Destination Legal. And here we are today.

Jade Boyd: Wow, I never heard like that full story. I feel like I got a little bit of your story from your website and from following you for a while. But, that is so relatable, I think for so many entrepreneurs, because I mean, the number of women burning out right now is at an all time high, like within owning your own business or within a traditional career.

So a lot of people can resonate with that. I hate what I’m doing, but I’ve invested so much time and money. Either building the career or building the business. And I’ve been in that place myself and I love how you explained that it’s not like, oh, I woke up one day and then realized this was my real calling. And then I changed everything, but it’s messy. Like there’s a lot of different tiny things along the way.

Sarah Waldbuesser: It is and for those, you know, other service providers or, you know, like accountants and people that may have quote unquote, like boring skillsets and boring jobs, like I still, I promise you, I don’t love. talking about privacy policies. I don’t love, you know, reading contracts all day. But what I do love is what it does for you.

I do love what, you know, having a trademark does for your business and having contracts in place. And I do love helping women build businesses that they love doing. You know, one of my registered trademarks is protect your passion because it’s so important, I think, to have. More women running passion based businesses doing things they love and then, you know, people are happier and so, if you’re doing something that you don’t necessarily love everything about it I urge you to try to view it from a different lens point and and look at a like what it’s doing for you right, it’s allowing you not to have to be at a nine to five and then what it’s doing for your clients So in those moments where I’m like, ah, so boring, like I have to remind myself of that.

Jade Boyd: Yeah, and the crappy part comes with any business too. There’s no business where you love what you’re doing a hundred percent of the time. So that’s a really good reminder.

Sarah Waldbuesser: I know, even though Instagram might lead us to believe differently, but it’s true.

Jade Boyd: Yes. 100%. And it makes a lot of sense to me that you were in group coaching programs and everyone’s like, hey, help me with the legal stuff because it is confusing. And for business owners who are just getting started or even business owners who’ve been in the game for a while, there are constantly new challenges to overcome and new fears of like, well, I don’t want to get sued or I don’t want to do this new thing because what does that open me up to like liability wise?

And so for the business owner, we’re recording this towards the beginning of the year. Who’s kind of doing like the legal checklist. Am I covered, am I operating my business above board or are there things that I need to be like thinking about or doing? Could you give us just like a basic checklist of the top three to five things that you would suggest for any business owner to kind of cover their bases?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. So number one, first thing, this is before you think about being an LLC, before you think about your website, like the first thing is always a one on one contract. If you’re doing coaching, consulting, web design, you know, any kind of services, the most important legal protection is a solid contract.

So that’s always number one. You want that on day one, you want that on day zero, right? Before, you know, before you start even taking money. So that’s definitely the most important piece.

Jade Boyd: Can we pause right there? Because even with a contract, if you have one, are there certain things that business owners need to have in place? Personally, it’s my pet peeve when somebody emails like a PDF to sign, or if there’s only, you have the contract, but only one party is signing it and your client is, and you’re not like, I’ve encountered all of these situations in my own business of like, I don’t feel really great about the way that we’re operating and signing the contract, even though it exists. So can you speak to like the process of that as well?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, for sure. You know, someone can send you a PDF and you sign it. It’s okay. That’s old, right? It’s almost like mailing you a contract, right? Today, we have, you know, Dropbox sign and DocuSign and we have customer management things like Dubsado and Satori, which allow you to sign, you know, within the platform.

So you are correct. It’s important that both parties sign it. It doesn’t have to be, you know, on the same day it’s, it’ll become effective on the date of the last person signing it. There are specific things that need to be in, in every contract and you know, I, I’ve seen. Hundreds, right? Over the past years, people come to me, well, this is what I’ve been using, this is what my coach gave me, this is what my coaching program gave me, and they’re all not great. Right? And so, you know, you might have like a one pager, but there’s no jurisdiction, there’s no dispute resolution. There’s like, there’s certain clauses that just need to be in every contract that if you’re googling it or asking Chad GPT, you’re not going to know that right? You don’t, you don’t know what you don’t know. And so, you know, making sure that it includes the terms of your package and how you’re getting paid, when you’re getting paid, what happens if you don’t get paid. You know, if there’s deliverable dates, things like that, you can never be too specific within that.

And then there’s intellectual property clauses and disclaimers. And, you know, there’s just a lot of different pieces that it’s one of those things where you shouldn’t try to put it together because as I said, you’re just, you’re not going to know what’s in there. And I’ve seen contracts that have conflicting information and all of that.

So, you know, if you look at it and it looks questionable, then, you know, you use your own contract or you can always go back with changes. You know, something a question I’ve gotten in the past is just don’t sign two contracts. So if you know, if you have a contract and they have a contract, you’re like, let’s just sign both.

You don’t want to do that because the last one signed nullifies the first one, and that’s the one that’s going to be, effective.

Jade Boyd: Interesting. Okay. So have a contract written by a lawyer, a real lawyer who knows your industry.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Exactly, and it’s so, it’s so much easier than it was 10 years ago, right? Because there are virtual template shops, online attorneys that know the coaching industry and the service provider industry.

They know online business. They know what should be in there. It’s a couple hundred bucks. This isn’t like you need to go to an old man, you know, law firm and pay $5,000 for a contract. It’s not like that anymore. You can spend a couple hundred and know that you’re secure. And that, that really is valuable and you know, I’m sure you know, like having these things in your business makes you feel more empowered and more confident.

Jade Boyd: Yeah. 100%. And something that I preach for my clients, at least, is that you don’t need to offer 20 different services in order to have a really successful business. And I feel like when it comes to contracts, that’s the trap that a lot of service providers get into where they’re like, I’m going to have six different services. And if you’re trying to buy six different contracts, which you should, if your services are different, then it can get really expensive really quickly. Instead of just focusing on like really shoring up and making one of your services profitable and systemized and scaling it to the best of your ability before you decide to do a million different things.

So contracts are definitely good investment. If you’re, if you’re going all in on your service, you should have a contract.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And that’s great advice, too. I think, you know, if, if myself included, more of us like did that of focusing on one thing instead of 80 things. Yeah.

Jade Boyd: Okay. So contracts, what’s next?

Sarah Waldbuesser: So contracts. So that’s first foremost. Next, you know, legal is a toolbox that as your business grows, you will just add things into it.

So typically starting off your contract. And then if you have a website, you know, it’s funny because it used to be everyone had a website and now not everyone does, you know, I don’t know if we’re going to see that go back to everyone does, but if you are collecting emails, if you have a blog, a newsletter, anything like that, there’s certain web policies that you need to have in place, including a privacy policy, which is legally required in the U. S., in the U. K., Canada, Australia, most countries. It needs to be on every page of your website and any landing pages where you’re collecting emails. So even if you don’t have a full website and you’re just like using a funnel, you still need a privacy policy. And then website terms and disclaimers protect you, anytime you’re putting out information on the internet, even if it’s just a blog post or, you know, a helpful checklist, you are opening yourself up to some liability. So website terms and disclaimers help you there. And then after that, it really depends on what you’re offering. So if you’re growing and scaling and you have an online course or a membership or group program, you want to make sure to have terms of purchase in place.

This is different than a one on one contract, which is. typically signed electronically terms of purchase or just agreed to at checkout, right? By clicking here, you agree to our terms of purchase. We all do it all the time. so those are really important to protect your sales again, protect you from liability.

And then after that, you know, if you’re hiring contractors, you want to make sure to have, you know, a contractor agreement. If you’re hosting a retreat, you need a retreat agreement. you’re building a brand, you need a trademark, which we’ll dive into. I get a question a lot of like, well, when do I incorporate? When do I need to think about an LLC? And it is important to do that. It doesn’t need to be day one, typically within the first six months to a year. Once you know your business is viable and you’re going for it, go ahead and incorporate. It’s helpful legal protection. It separates your business assets from your personal assets.

It allows you to easily get an EIN, a bank account. It keeps things clearer for your bookkeeper accountant to separate out like that. And it just looks a little bit more legit when you, you know, when someone sees your contract with you know, LLC behind it or Inc. or something like that, but it doesn’t, I know that LLC, like it scares people. It stops them from moving forward and it doesn’t need to, and it’s something that you don’t even need a lawyer for. You can do it yourself. You know, you can Google secretary of state where you are LLC and it walks you through it. So it’s not, it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Jade Boyd: I know it varies state to state, but the process in Iowa, at least it took me less than an hour to do everything that you need to become an LLC. Like you have to wait for it to be approved, but it is very simple. And for the templates, like for filing an LLC, I’m sure different states have different requirements, but I had to write an operating agreement.

Are there templates for things like that, that either you or other people have to?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, there are. It actually, you know, we have just like, I think it’s like $27 a product called Happy Hour Your LLC, which like walks you through. And then you can also get an operating agreement there. Not all states require that. Most states are fairly simple, I would say the most difficult is in New York, because you have to do some archaic like publishing that you’re starting a business and all of that.

So I would say New York is the only state that you might want to reach out to an attorney just to make sure, but all the other states are fairly straightforward.

Jade Boyd: Gotcha. Yeah, I was lucky enough when I started my business, I just had a good friend locally who was a lawyer and helped me get the template, which was very, very simple. So I assumed that there would be templates, but I’m sure, like I said, every state is a little different, which makes it a little bit more challenging.

But that I feel like is a very easy checklist, especially since all of those things are templates that are literally just copied and pasted.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah. You know, a good rule of thumb is like in your business, Whenever you’re paying money or getting money, you want something in writing. So, you know, we didn’t, other things as you grow may or may not be relevant, but like, if you have an affiliate program, if you’re entering a partnership, like all of those things need some sort of contract.

So a good rule of thumb, again, is just anytime you’re paying someone or being paid, you want to make sure to have some sort of term or contract in place.

Jade Boyd: Perfect. And we touched on trademarks, but that’s kind of where we’re going to land today. Because for a lot of service providers, that is the big question, like who needs a trademark? Should I be thinking about this and how do I protect myself and my brand if they’re building out some sort of signature program or their business name is really important to their brand. Let’s just start with what is a trademark. And I think it’s confused with copyright often. So can we differentiate like what is what, and what are we even talking about today?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. So trademark and copyright are two types of IP, intellectual property. The third type is our patents, which we’re not even going to mention because they’re not relevant to us. Copyright, a good way to remember copyright is for content. So CNC, copyright protects your content. So anything you’re writing, creating, so whether it’s an ebook, an online course, photographs, art, music, movies, jewelry, like any, any sort of thing that you’re creating into a fixed form and putting out there is protected by copyright. And copyright law is automatic. So just by putting out a blog post, by publishing an ebook, by taking a picture, you own it.

Nobody else can use it, sell it, take it without your permission. Now, people do, right? The internet, it’s the wild wild west. It happens. They’re not supposed to. but it does, it does happen. And so when that happens, you have a couple of options as the owner of that copyright, you can send a cease and desist letter.

Now this really, has to be word for word. So there are no new ideas. If you’re like, well, I posted, you know, the four things, how to build an online business, and they posted the three things, how to build an online business. And they were the same as my four, right? That’s, that’s not going to fly. It has to be word for word, but if you send a cease and desist, you can always reach out to the domain host and say, this person, you know, is committing copyright infringement. Usually that will work. And then there’s one step that you can really take, which is if you register your copyright with the government, you can sue for copyright infringement.

And so, if you, you know, it’s, it’s automatic that you would get paid if you could show someone took it. It doesn’t even have to be intentional. And so, if you, you know, If you posted a blog post and someone else just took it and put together a bunch of blog posts by different people, like, you could still sue them for that and get some money back.

And so, you know, registering copyright isn’t that difficult, but their system is so old, it’s not always necessary. And so I would only think about it if you do have, like, something that like you really want to protect, and that you would go after someone if they took it. You’re probably not going to go after someone just like sealing your social media post.

So that is, that’s copyright. Again you have to weigh like how important it is to me. What is it? What am I gonna go through to, to really think about that? But it’s also, you know, you need to be aware as a business owner. If you’re using content, things like that, there are rules around social media, you know, you can’t take something from Instagram and put it over on Pinterest, like that is not okay, and that is violating all sorts of terms and violates the copyright of the owner, so some things to be aware of, and there’s, you know, I’ve written articles about that for social media examiner, we can include those in the show notes and we won’t need to go into that here, but I do have some resources for that.

Okay, so copyright is content and then trademark. Trademarks are a way to protect names, slogans, logos, basically names of things in your brand. So the name of your business, the name of your signature course, the name of your, you know, consulting services, any product you’re selling. The main thing about a trademark is you have to be selling goods or services or be able to so like you certainly can trademark the name of a podcast. If you just have a blog you can trademark it because you can still monetize those things. So the the trademark office views that is as good to go, and so they were created so that consumers would know the difference between who’s selling what?

So if I’m walking down the street in a cup with, you know, a green mermaid on it. You know, that I was at Starbucks. If Dunkin Donuts all of a sudden had a white cup with a green circle with a, with a shark on it. That might be confusing. And so that’s why trademarks exist. We know, if we look at, you know, Nike and see a swoosh, like, just do it, we know that that is made by Nike and not Adidas. If we, you know, in the online space, if you’re like, I just signed up for B School, like, you know that that’s Marie Forleo. It’s a way for consumers to know who is providing the goods and services that you’re selling and it’s very powerful, so having a registered trademark allows you to own it within your industry. And that’s a very powerful thing because if you own it, it means you can say whether others can or can’t use it. Typically, you’re not going to let other people use your trademark because then it dilutes it. But again, it’s within your industry.

So, for example, you know, we have dove chocolate and we have dove soap. Those are both registered trademarks, but it’s okay because, you know, if I said I had the best piece of dove for lunch, you’re going to know that I’m talking about chocolate and hopefully not eating soap. Right? And so that’s, that’s why you can have that in, in multiple industries.

Yeah, so that’s kind of, of what they are and, and why they exist.

Jade Boyd: And I just want to point out, trademarks are really, really valuable. And I did not notice that until I was in grad school. And even looking at the balance sheets for some of those larger companies, like the trademark registration, the brand asset for the Nike logo, it is on their sheets for millions upon millions of dollars. I don’t know what it’s worth today, but for small business owners too, like these are very valuable assets to have in your business because you do truly own it. And it is your stamp saying like, this is a quality product or service that’s owned by my business. It’s not just like this fluffy. No one else can use this.

I like thinking of it as that, because it, especially if you have a signature program or a signature course, like you said, it is that stamp saying like this one is the real deal and that’s why it’s worth so much. It’s not a knockoff.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Absolutely. And again, you know, you said it, like if you’re, if you’re ever thinking about selling your business, like having a trademark is a really important thing to have. And I mean, look at Meta they just bought their trademark for like 33 million dollars or something from the person that owned it.

And especially for e commerce or Amazon brands or things like that, like if you are looking to sell your business, having a trademark is almost required. And so as service providers, you know, you’re, you know, if you have a course, if you have a program, if you ever think about, again, think about selling at some point, like almost non-negotiable to own your brand.

Jade Boyd: One question that comes up a lot when it comes to trademarks, a lot of service providers operate their business under their own name. I do too. My LLC is Jade Boyd Co. And there is the question of, well, do I need to trademark my own name or will I always be able to use my own name? Like, don’t you have legal rights to use your own name, even if somebody else has the exact same name?

How does that work?

Sarah Waldbuesser: So it’s an interesting question, and it’s not a simple, straightforward answer. So sometimes you can trademark your name and sometimes you should. Sometimes you can’t and sometimes you shouldn’t. So, you know, when you think about some names that have been trademarked, you know, you’re Jade Boyd Co now, but Kate Spade started out just as Kate Spade, right?

But then eventually her brand overtook her name, right? And so that trademark was an important thing to have. Tory Burch, you know, she didn’t trademark right away. What if somebody else had come and, and trademarked the name Tory Burch just because, right? And, you know, this happens in the trademark world.

The Kardashians, they’re people that went, and just trademarked the name of a Kardashian kid the day they were born. Now you’re not supposed to do that. Tony Robbins, you know, if you are very famous, you can trademark your name. If your name is your company in certain circumstances you can, but the trademark office will ask questions. So if you are John Smith consulting, probably not because that’s too common of a name, but Jade Boyd is not that common.

So you may be able to. So that’s something if, if you are questioning it, and you think that you have a fairly unique name, not super simple, talk to a trademark attorney. That’s the way to really know. So I have a lot of clients that, use their name in something within their business. So for example, one of my clients is a health coach and her trademark is strong with Sarah.

And so when you do that, you have to submit paperwork that this is actually a real person. I’m using my name and I’m okay with that. You know, I have other clients that this is the program with the person’s name, and that can also be a way to actually distinguish it and get it through. So it really isn’t a black and white answer. Trademark law in general is fairly gray because the United States Patent and Trademark Office is made up of individual examining attorneys they all have their own opinions on things and one attorney says this and another says that. And so, for that type of question, it really depends on how unique your name is and how you envision this is for any, you know, I always get the question of how do I know if it’s time to trademark? What should I trademark? It’s how do you envision your brand in five or 10 years? If you know, Jade Boyd Co. now has 50 employees like that will be a valuable trademark to have because at some point you might step away and someone else is running that company, right?

But if you are just Jade Boyd Co. and you only plan to maybe bring on one other employee, then maybe not. And so you want to think about how important is this to my brand in five or ten years? Do I see myself still wanting to use this name and do I want to own this name? You know, you might think I don’t really want to grow Jade Boyd Co. but I also don’t want anyone else to. Right?

Maybe there is another person out there with my name. And so it can be a protection thing just to make sure that you own it. But I think of trademarking is, it’s almost more of an emotional thing than a logic thing. So, you know, if you’re thinking about your company or your, your signature program, your podcast, like think about that name now, and if you got an email tomorrow with the cease and desist letter saying somebody else has trademarked it and you have to rebrand in 10 days, how would you feel about it? And so if you get the gut punch, this is the gut punch test, if you get a gut punch, then it’s time to trademark. If you’re like, oh, it’s not that important. I would, you know, it’s not a big deal. Then maybe not. And so it’s just thinking about what time, money, and resources have you put into it so far? What do you plan to put into it? Because what you really don’t want to do is build a house on land that you don’t own. And if you’re building a business, And you don’t have the trademark, then you don’t own that land and someone else can take it from you at any time.

Jade Boyd: So, what I’m hearing is that it’s extremely unlikely that someone might send me a cease and desist saying, I’ve trademarked Jade Boyd Co. and you can’t use it anymore.

But it is a possibility that I would not be able to use my own name for my business if they were to trademark under business coaching or whatever industry.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Correct.

Jade Boyd: Which is crazy to me, that is just bizarre.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yes. Yes.

Jade Boyd: But I think that’s a really important thing for, you mentioned branding and like investing in your branding and what if you had to rebrand in 10 days.

For the business owner who is planning to invest, you know, 5 to 10 thousand dollars hiring a graphic designer, make sure you own your name because that is a big investment and you want to be able to protect it.

Sarah Waldbuesser: You know, I have clients, this happens all the time, I just have, I have a current client that like is so gung ho, they’re about to launch, they paid a thousand dollars for the domain name, they have the web, they’re ready to go, and now it’s time to trademark, and they literally can’t. It’s like. You know, sometimes we can push it and risk it, but like their name is the exact trademark of another name. And so we’re not, we can’t do that. So now they have to go back and redo all this. And that has happened numerous times. and you know, it should be one of the first things you think about. And even if you’re not going to trademark tomorrow, at least make sure it’s available and that you can because what you don’t want is to start a business with the name of a trademark that is already owned because then you you can get you know a trademark infringement lawsuit and all of that stuff.

Jade Boyd: And I’ll make sure we link to that too. So for any business owner who hasn’t looked up your trademark, I’ll make sure, it’s very easy.

Sarah Waldbuesser: I was just gonna say, you know first Google it just see who’s using it look on social media like just see what’s out there and then there is a search engine on, the U-S-P-T-O website that is easy to just see, you know, are there pending or registered trademarks, similar or the same as to that name?

Jade Boyd: Perfect. And so for the business owner who is now thinking, Oh man, I need to file a trademark. Can you talk a little bit about the application process? Because it’s quite long. And so just chatting through what that process actually looks like and what the like checkpoints and milestones are along the way.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. It is a long process that has been longer since covid, so during covid, they saw a huge spike of trademarks because more people were starting their own businesses. And my guess is also a few attorneys left USPTO. Maybe they haven’t replaced them. But either way, I used to be able to tell clients it would take six to 12 months, and now I’m like 12 to 18 months. It, you know, it takes a year, on a good day, right? Like we didn’t have huge issues with you and it’s still taking a year. And that’s because It could take six to nine months for your application to even get reviewed by an attorney. But the good news is the date of filing your application, your legal protection starts.

So if I file mine tomorrow and you file yours in two weeks and they’re similar, USPTO won’t even look at yours until they’ve gone through mine. So that data filing does kind of start some legal protection and the steps are, you know, you submit the application, there’s a specimen involves, there’s different things involved in that, and then, you know, eventually six to nine months in the examining attorney reviews it.

And, you know, then several scenarios, it could, there could be no issues and it goes on to the last step, which is publication where it’s posted for 30 days and gives the public a chance to comment or oppose it. Basically that’s the trademark office saying, hey we don’t see any issues with this, but the public might and there are companies that are monitoring trademarks and have issues with it.

It’s rare, but it does happen. And if there’s no issues, then a couple weeks after that, you’re final, but often you will get an office action, which means there is some issue with your application. And these are grouped into substantive and non substantive. And so non substantive means it’s a quick issue. Maybe we need to change the class description. Maybe we need a different specimen. You know, there could be something about how the application was filled out pretty easy. Then there’s substantive issues, which are the trademark attorney thinks your mark conflicts with another one. That it’s too likely to cause confusion among consumers, that it’s too descriptive or generic. And so those are all things that require a legal response, case law, legal arguments, you know, that you absolutely need an attorney to respond to, but that’s not, you know, you can still win. And actually just today. I’ve been working on this trademark for two years. We got an office action and we didn’t win.

And so then they issue a final, which is like, okay, you get one more shot at this and I did. And then we won that one. And so now it went through. And so a lot of people that try this on their own or don’t have great attorneys, they just give up. Whereas sometimes you can convince the attorney that they’re wrong and that this should be allowed to be registered. So a lot of different things can happen but those are kind of the steps but you know if you’re in this process now and you’re like this is taking forever, that’s pretty normal.

Jade Boyd: Yeah. And speaking to that, so just sharing my story and hiring and working with two different attorneys, as somebody who loves control, there’s so much in the trademark application process that you just cannot control, but you can control who you hire and who you have work on your trademark, which from personal experience, it makes a huge difference.

And I hired you about six months after having a different lawyer file, my first trademark, someone who did not specialize in trademark law and was actually working with another business owner. You said it’s common for business owners to give up, and both of us had pretty much given up on this other lawyer because it has been such a nightmare process along the way. And it’s very clear that she does not know what she’s doing and it is not going well. And it can be a really expensive investment to go through that process, to hire a lawyer, to register a trademark. And so if it is something that’s really important to your business, that you really do need the best chance possible of getting it, hire the right person.

I would always recommend you, Sarah, but, your process has just been so great because it is so complicated and there’s so many different steps and anytime you’ve checked in with me, you’ve given me an update, even if we’re talking about something not trademark related, which I have just so appreciated because it’s so clear that you really do care about your clients when hiring a traditional lawyer, you might not get that level of service or someone who actually gets like, Hey, this is really important to my business. And I really care about being in the know of what’s going on here because there’s other decisions that are kind of weighing in the balance of whether this happens or not.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, the law is a big field, right? Like I wouldn’t, do my own real estate transaction, right? Like, so if you are looking, make sure that you do get an attorney that knows this because it is it is very nuanced and I do, you know, my husband I think would say I probably get too attached to my clients because it does happen that we can’t get a trademark through even if you know, I fight till the end.

Sometimes it happens and in those instances I get very upset. So for a while I actually thought maybe I can’t be a trademark lawyer because I’m, I am very, you know, I’m very empathetic and amiable and all of this. But I’ve gotten better at that. You know, as long as I know that I did my best, that’s all I can do, but it is, it can be quite a process and people do get attached to their brands and, I understand that completely.

Jade Boyd: Yeah, and even when we first started when I can’t remember the exact, situation, but it was like the person who had the trademark that I filed for had like a month left where they could have like renewed it and taken it back where it was unlikely. But it’s like, do I pay to file this to get the soonest date possible before anyone else snatches it?

Or do I wait a month until it’s official? Like, It can be a really stressful place to be as a business owner to make that decision and having somebody who actually cares about what you’re going through and the decision you’re making and isn’t just like, well, whatever you want, you know, your decision, that makes a huge difference because it’s not always like you said, so just like transactional cut and dry. It’s our business. It’s like our baby. It’s – It’s emotional.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah. Exactly. And so, you know, as you’re building your brand, you do want to think about this sooner rather than later for all the reasons we’ve talked about.

Jade Boyd: So any last tips on finding the right lawyer, what to look for, what to look out for?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah. So, you know, I would certainly look for an attorney that specializes in trademarks like that’s important. Don’t use your cousin who you know does trust in the states, don’t use your best friend who does corporate like find someone that knows trademarks and then just you know I think it’s look at the vibe like look at their website like have a chat with them you know, you want to feel taken care of and so I think if I think it is an investment.

And so I think that’s important and I want my clients to always feel taken care of and all of that. And so I think you just want to think about that and then referrals like ask your friends that have have had successful trademark experiences who they used because I often think that’s that’s a great way to go.

Jade Boyd: Perfect. I think this is going to be so helpful for so many business owners, because like I said, this is a conversation that comes up all the time. And so having a real lawyer speak into what they should do next or what they should be thinking about. Can be just a little hint of relief when it comes to the overwhelm and the stress that can come with some of these decisions.

So thank you so much for being here today. Are you ready for a bonus round?

Sarah Waldbuesser: I am. Yeah

Jade Boyd: Okay perfect. What is a favorite productivity hack you have as a business owner?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Time blocking, I don’t always do it, but when I do, it is very helpful.

Jade Boyd: So speak to me about your time blocking method.

Sarah Waldbuesser: So I’m always working with it, but my current method is blocks of time, but also on specific days. So like right now, every Monday afternoon, so I’m in Italy right now. And so my mornings, I’m trying to, you know, not work as much, and so like Monday afternoon is content. Tuesday afternoon is like sales and marketing. Wednesday afternoon is client services. Thursday afternoon is, you know, projects and admin. And so. trying to, to stay focused like that, I have found really helpful. Otherwise, I’m doing client work every day, and I’m doing content every day, and then I’m not, it’s not as productive.

Jade Boyd: Yep, for sure. I am a huge fan of time blocking. What is your favorite business or productivity book to recommend?

Sarah Waldbuesser: This is hard, so I will say one that I know is, good, which is Atomic Habits, which I have read mostly, but I’m not always great at implementing again like when you use the tools they work for you, and I think habit stacking and things like that are really helpful.

Jade Boyd: Yep. Big fan of atomic habits. And the last question is, where can listeners find you after the show? Where are you hanging out online these days?

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. So on Instagram, I’m @legally.sarah_. That’s mostly where I’m hanging out these days. I, I also have TikTok @legally.sarah_, but I’m not there yet. I just, I can’t get there maybe in the future. and then the website is destinationlegal.com.

Jade Boyd: Perfect. We’ll make sure to link all of those in the show notes. And thanks so much again for being here today.

Sarah Waldbuesser: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

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From MBA to Brand Photographer to Business Coach, I learned the hard way how to build a life-first business that allows me to work part-time hours without sacrificing profit. Now I help service providers simplify and scale their businesses so they can earn their dream income while living life on their schedule. If you're ready to build a sustainable, profitable service business (without the burnout), apply for the Business Edit™ Group Coaching Program today!

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