The Importance of Owning a Trademark

I know this is a little "off topic" for me, but it's an important post and it needs to be written.

On Friday I was contacted by someone saying they were also "24 at Heart."  Their email was signed with a link to a blog of the same name.

I was getting ready to head out the door when the email arrived, and my immediate thought was, "What the hell?"

Then I googled "24 at heart" and Google sent me to myself – which is kind of funny when you think about it.

(By the way, a lot of you google 24 at heart instead of Twenty Four At Heart every day to find me.  I know this, because I get a report showing me what "searches" are made bringing people here.)

As many of you know, I began writing Twenty Four At Heart over three years ago.  When I did, I purchased TwentyFourAtHeart.com, .org, .info, and a host of other dot-somethings so no one else could accidentally (or purposely) use the same name.  At the time, I also looked at purchasing 24atHeart.com, .org, .info, etc., but to be honest I couldn't justify spending a lot of money on a website I was just beginning.  

By the way, those names were all available for purchase when I looked.

Also?

At the time, I was in a bad place (surgery after surgery) and had no idea Twenty Four At Heart would grow into what it has become.  In fact, I couldn't have imagined, in my wildest dreams, I would own a business of the same name just three years later.

In the last year, it has become clear Twenty Four At Heart has grown into its own entity.  Last winter I talked to my lawyer (Keith Bremer) about what steps I needed to take to protect myself, and my business.  We began taking the steps necessary to formalize Twenty Four At Heart into a corporation and to trademark the name.

Over the course of the last few months, both of those steps were finalized.

I was not happy with the news someone else was using "my" name (in any variation).  This was magnified when I realized this same person had "24 at Heart Photography" on their Google Profile.  I've been very active with a lot of top photographers on Google Plus and my photos are all copyrighted with the Twenty Four At Heart name.  

I really did not want/need this type of confusion in my professional life on top of the physical challenges I face every day.

Now, before everyone gets up in arms on my behalf …

I'd like to point out I *think* this situation was unintentional on behalf of the other party.

Of course, I don't know this person so I can't say for sure  - 

(Although, it is eerily coincidental especially when you throw in the photography piece.)

In any case, I emailed the other party, explained I was not trying to create a problem for her, but informed her I own the trademark.

I then contacted my lawyers and they promptly got back to me.  How many lawyers do that on a Friday evening after 5:00?  

(Best lawyers ever –  Bremer Whyte.)

By the way, this self-proclaimed "Christian" then called me a "mean" "sad" "bitter" person on her blog.

(That is a whole different issue called libel ……. but I won't get into that today.)

Initially, I wasn't going to write about this situation but I decided it's important for people to understand what happened.  If you write a blog, or are starting a business, it's very important to protect yourself legally.  I realize, in our economy, no one wants to spend money on lawyers, right?

But …

It doesn't matter if someone intentionally, or unintentionally, "takes" your name.  It doesn't matter if you, or they, "had it first."

What does matter, is who owns the name.

Trademarking is important unless you're prepared to give up the name of your blog/business to someone else.  I should have trademarked the name Twenty Four At Heart three years ago, but I'm lucky I began taking the steps to formalize my business in early 2011.  If I hadn't, anyone could start selling photos, or doing whatever, under the name Twenty Four At Heart (or a slight/confusing variation of it).  

Trademarking was just one of the legal steps I took to protect my business, but it was an important one.  

(I was asked by someone last week if trademarking and copyrighting are the same thing.  No, they are not.  Copyrighting your writing and/or photos is an entirely different topic.  Trademarking allows you to "own" your blog/business name.)

One of my friends made the following comment to me on Twitter last Friday:

Protecting your business does not make you a bitch, it makes you a business owner.

I'm closing comments on this post due to some of the legal issues still swirling around this situation.

I am, however, urging all of you to protect yourselves and your businesses through proper legal channels.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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