Simple question, I know, we're first time cofounders :)
What is the best and most economical way to copyright and/or trademark your app's name and logo? Do you HAVE to copyright and trademark it?
Also, what's the best venue to secure your domain name? Thanks!
I don't know anyone small who has done this. The problem for us little guys under 5 million a year in annual revenue is that it costs a minimum of $5,000 to sue someone, and if they are in another state, expect to spend $10,000. A typical lawsuit takes a year, and consumes a huge amount if time.
@Michgal Borowski - You think GoDaddy hosting is expensive? They are priced at the market for a virtual shared instance that's suitable for a low traffic blog or business card website. They are not a high volume hosting outfit, they are in the same class as 1&1, Host Gator, etc.
I use Godaddy. They have two-step verification (meaning, they ping your cell phone if something changes on your account as well as email), so the likelihood that you will have a hack is pretty small. You can trademark your own names with the USPTO. There are books on how to do it. Just download the application and fill it out with some research. You can use a lawyer. Some charge as little as $600 but the more experienced lawyers will likely charge you around $1500 and they will follow up, and keep tabs. Be careful to always trademark two things, my lawyer used to say: the word (ACME) and the actual mark. The mark may have design components to it. Trademark both. (I am not a lawyer, so these are just opinions).
It is really not necessary to copyright your content. It is automatically copyrighted once you deploy it on your site. Though, if you have to, for a book, or paper or something, you can go to the Copyright is through the US Copyright office - https://www.copyright.gov/.
Registration with USPTO and Domain provider. Those trademarks granted by the USPTO have priority over those domain registrations.
Hi Frank, Trademark only if you think it needs protection. If you truly believe your company is the next "big" thing or you plan to go national then trademark your name and logo (I assume your logo is a genuine original design, otherwise you will be wasting money trying to copyright a logo). If you plan to remain local then trademarking may be a waste of time. Also consider the cost of changing your name/branding versus going to court to defend a claim. Unless there is a real value in the name and logo long term then it may not be necessary. By the way you don't copyright something. Copyright is established on first (proven) use, you can use copyright statements in your web site, marketing materials etc, as a legal means of warning off others, but copyright infringement can be difficult to prove, and action, unless you also have the additional proection of a trademark. It depends too on what you want to protect. Software code cannot be trademarked but can be subject to copyright (so include a copyright date and name in the code). Something that identifies the business and/or product/service of the business can be trademarked - it should be distinct to that clasisfication of business/product e.g. IT services or consulting services. Trademarkia.com is a good place to start. Bear in mind it can take up to two years to get final approval for your trademark and it lasts 10 years. Trademarks are specific to countries too so trademark in the US for sure, but consider whether you need to go wider than US only as this gets very expensive very quickly. In my experience US and UK are solid countries to trademark in (maybe Canada too). Beyond that it becomes debatable. Unless you're going for global reach, and expect to grown very big, very fast, it may not be worth it. Copyright infringment is still valid in law and is often easier to deal with. Domain names are interesting since they can be trademarked in their own right, but often companies don't, claiming that the name contained within the domain suffices. It doesn't. And further, a company can only come knocking on your door to demand you give up a domain if you are using it to be anti-competitive, or using the domain in a way that would be detrimental to that company, or if you obtained it with the intent to sell to that company at a profit. As in all cases, get good advice from an IP legal specialist. :-)
Kelvin expressed some interesting points, though not all relevant to you. Getting back to the questions you actually asked, the USPTO only REGISTERS trademarks, they don't create them. You are assumed to have a trademark whether you register it or not when you use a mark in the course of doing interstate business. The point of the registry is to put others on notice that you intend to defend your mark so there can be no confusion about who you are. And the law around trademark REQUIRES you to vigorously defend it. If you don't, you lose the protection registration offers. It will potentially cost tens of thousands each time you defend your mark if the saber-rattling letter your attorney sends initially doesn't scare off possible infringers. Plus you have to monitor potential infringement weekly. Lack of defense is like abandoning your registration. You will need to renew your mark periodically with the registry if you receive a registration number, indicating you will continue to defend and are still using the mark in trade.
A trademark can be an image or a word mark (text), one or the other, not both at the same time. If you want both kinds registered, you need two separate registrations.
Registering a copyright is inexpensive, but only applies to stuff that's written down (including computer code). You can pay the $20 to register a copyright too, but you can also just send a copy of the text to yourself and keep it in a sealed postmarked envelope in case it's ever needed to prove who was first. You may deter copyright violations by posting the "Copyright 2017" with the content. The "All rights reserved" clause is for international concerns mostly. That's usually enough. People who are going to ignore your copyrights probably won't care if you registered it officially or not. Enforcement comes down to the same proof, who was first to write it.
Logos are infrequently worth trademarking in my personal opinion. Unless you're the next "Swoosh" you probably won't be known for your logo, more likely your name. As an app, maybe you consider your app icon your trademark, and if you don't use your name in advertising very much, maybe people will only know your icon/logo. If you feel you should trademark your name, you must meet a few criteria to be eligible to apply for trademark registration. Generally it's something you could do yourself in under an hour, but making sure the description is quite clear and you've filled out the forms correctly requires some effort on your part to get it right. And make sure you search for potential conflicts before you spend your filing fee. Asking permission nicely from someone who may have a conflict is a good strategy. If they are not likely to be confused with your company, there's a good chance you will get permission to proceed without later getting an objection. You will pay an additional fee for each category of business you attach to your trademark.
So, short answer is that you do NOT have to copyright or trademark anything. Each is just a registry. You will automatically have an implied trademark once you start doing business across state lines, though you cannot use the TM or R symbols with your name/logo unless you have officially sent in your application for registration.
Best for securing a domain name? They're really all equivalent. It makes almost no difference. They all follow the same rules. Pick one that's inexpensive and easy to manage when considering any other services you might use related to your domain name.
Some people feel the registered trademark is a signal of authority that is beneficial to the business. Others just see it as an annual expense with little benefit and required clutter in all graphic design. Some very popular brands have never trademarked their name or logo, yet you would know them immediately.
I'm in the midst of doing the trademark. Quite simply Legalzoom offers fullk service to legalize and protect your name including the USPO, the advanced services of GODADDY protect the domain.
I've never copyright'ed something but...
I always use Godaddy, fast and easy to be honest. I've never hosted with them before though last I saw they're a little pricey for their offer but a lot of people like 1 stop shop so I'm sure a lot of people use it.
One further point is that the C symbol is no longer required to protect your work as it’s automatically protected when the work is created. So its is pointless paying for copyright registration. To learn some more on copyrights, check out Stanford University’s amazing Copyright and Fair Use Center - http://fairuse.stanford.edu/
Also to expand on Paul's excellent point about sending yourself material in the post, make sure this is sent by courierand it is signed for. This is because the courier company will have a record of the consignment. I've seen this used in court of law (in the UK actually) where sending by post (and showing the postmark) was deemed insuffcient proof (since the claim was that the envelope in which the disputed material as sent could have been tampered with after receipt. When you send something by courier (in the couriers own document wallet) then, apparently this "tampering" is much less likely to be the case and it would seem that courts will accept this as "proof". Just an fyi.... :-)
In the US, that's Registered Mail, offered by the post office. Any signature-required delivery will do, even delivery confirmation (like Priority Mail), because it's a two-party process. Most US courts accept First Class postmarks as legal notice. It's only when someone says they didn't receive it that a receipt of delivery is required. A dated copy on a CD-ROM is another possible alternative because the date written to non-rewriteable disc cannot be altered. Rule of thumb is likely versus possible. How much are you actually worried? Take that level of precaution.
I am a trademark and copyright lawyer, but the following is not legal advice, just general commentary (I know, I 'm starting with legalese), but I'd like to help you out. You've gotten some good suggestions, so here is the real deal:
1) You do NOT NEED to register your trademark to start developing rights - in the U.S. (it's different outside the U.S. generally speaking) - but it does help with enforcement, as someone pointed out, and you should do it unless you're really operating on a shoe-string budget or branding is not essential to your business, then you can wait. Also, if you are just starting to think of a name, and you think of a good one, you can apply to register it before you start using it and your priority will be preserved as of the date you file. In the U.S., the first to use a mark, wins, unless you can claim priority through registration. If you plan to invest in your business, registering your mark is an easy one - less than $1,000 including the lawyer's fees and government fees from a reputable trademark lawyer (you can pay more or less, or even do it yourself and pay only the $225 or $275 government fee). There's a lot more to it (what if someone is already using your brand but you don't find out out until after you've developed some goodwill? So most good trademark lawyers will recommend that you clear your proposed mark first), but those are the basics.
2) You do not need to register a copyright, but doing so is cheap and provides you with some valuable benefits if someone infringes it. Most importantly, you can't sue someone without a registration, but almost as important, if you don't register your copyright within a certain timeframe of creating your work (that is, writing it down or recording it somehow), then you can get your attorneys' fees and statutory damages through a lawsuit. That said, website content changes so much that it's not worth registering unless it's truly creative content (like a running story or short film). Most ad copy just isn't that creative and unless someone copies it word-for-word, then you won't be able to stop someone from paraphrasing you. As someone said, code is copyrightable, so I've helped start-ups register a fair bit of code over the years. Lastly, the only thing a copyright gets you is protection from copying. If someone else creates the same thing without copying your code/written materials/images, then you can't stop them. And, just because something doesn't have a copyright notice doesn't mean it's not protected. One of the most surprising things I teach my students (I do that on the side) is that copying an image off the Internet using the right-click, copy image combo is copyright infringement unless you have some kind of fair use defense.
Best of luck and I'm happy to answer any further questions offline,