Internet Startup Challenges in Branding and Trademark Protection

When it comes to my area of expertise, protection of branding, internet startups begin their business lifecycle with a unique challenge: trademark protection is a step taken jurisdiction by jurisdiction, but internet startups are often launched to the entire world instantly. One the one hand, you should protect your trademark in your home country, but even though the rules may be different in future markets, a startup probably doesn’t have the funds to file for trademark protection in every potential future market. Let’s take a look at what kinds of potential issues I’m referring to.

We’ll take the US and European Union markets and jurisdictions for example. It may be clever to brand your statistical analysis app CURVE and then register that as a trademark in the US. However, once success comes to your company and you begin expansion efforts into the EU, you’ll find that you won’t be able to register your brand as a CTM (the EU-wide trademark) because the word CURVE is likely to be pronounced as koor-vah in Poland, which refers to someone practicing the oldest profession in the world and is therefore unregistrable as a CTM. This means you’ll either have to operate your business without trademark protection (ie, the ability to stop others from using your brand to market your products) or you’ll need to rebrand your product in the new market.

From time to time, I make a shameless plug for my own legal services, so here goes! As a California trademark lawyer with more than 2 years of experience working directly with EU trademarks, I can offer the type of insight and long-term strategy that usually comes at a prohibitive price from law firms with overseas partners. Kuehn Law offers the unique combination of local, lean counsel attention and fees with the foresight of an international firm. If you’ve ever considered expanding your business into the European market, send me an email to ck@cliffkuehn.com and I’d be happy to spend some phone or Skype time with you to issue spot. Of course, your emails will be treated with confidentiality.

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