As AfroTech recently told you, this was the case for Oprahdemics podcasters Kellie Carter Jackson and Leah Wright Rigueur who faced a trademark infringement suit from Oprah Winfrey’s company Harpo Inc. The duo used a logo with a large “O” and ran various social media platforms and oprahdemics.com. The best way to avoid this dilemma is to be as specific as possible. In addition, the trademark does not always have to be in connection to the particular product.
“When you’re starting a brand name, you want to take some time to develop it,” Pierce said. “You want to think of a not-popular name as it relates to the products or services as that you will be providing. You want it to be as distinctive as possible. So, for instance, the best brands, don’t really mean anything in connection to the products or services that they’re selling. For instance, you have Nike, Disney, Exxon, and Kodak, which doesn’t really mean anything, right? So, first, you want to develop a more distinctive brand because when you do it’s easier to get it registered, but also it doesn’t give your competitors any reason to use that name because it’s not related to the industry at all.”
She continued: “Second, you want to do the research. You want to make sure no one else has that name, no one else has the registration. As a trademark lawyer, it’s not about what’s the same, but what can be deemed confusing and similar. A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I have my LLC,’ ‘I have my corporation,’ ‘I have my domain name,’ ‘I have my social media,’ ‘I’m good.’ You can have all of those things and still be forced to start that business over if it infringes on someone else’s registered framework.”