Don’t bother securing your trademarks in the beginning
Dec 01, 2021
Disclaimer: This is intended as a short, tactical guide to getting your trademarks sorted out for the first time, on a minimal budget. This is not legal advice and we are not lawyers - this is just what has worked for us.
Don't bother securing your trademarks in the early days of your business - wait until you've raised a seed round first to mitigate the risk of wasting your money.
Those first crucial months present bigger problems to worry about - like finding product-market fit or hiring. There's also a good chance that your brand will evolve, from name changes and logo revamps to brand fonts and colors. This makes trademarking a word mark or logo mark that early a risky bet.
What is the different between a word mark and a logo mark?
A word mark is basically just the name of the brand (as written in a specific font, if applicable). In our case, it's the word 'PostHog.' A logo mark is typically pictorial - in our case, the hedgehog logo either alone or combined with a stylized word. The word mark is the most versatile, so that should be your first trademark priority.
When you decide to register your trademark, you don't need to spend a fortune doing it. With a tactical combination of using the right type of lawyer and doing it yourself, you should be able to get trademarks filed in the US, UK, EU and China for ~$3,000 in total.
(Why China? Even if you're not doing business there today, China operates a 'first to file' rule for trademarks, rather than 'first use,' which means whoever registers the trademark there first gets to keep it. Great for IP trolls - not so great for you.)
We’ve currently secured our brand name ('PostHog') and word mark in the four territories listed above. The process differs slightly for each region:
- US: Hire a trademark attorney to do it for you (necessary if you live outside the US). You can find fixed-fee service providers to avoid getting charged by the hour. We used Cognition IP and like them. Cost = ~$1,300.
- UK: File it yourself through the UK Intellectual Property Office’s easy to use website. It’s actually faster than hiring a trademarks and IP lawyer to do it for you. Cost = $0.
- EU: If you live in the European Union, you can simply file the trademark yourself via the EU IPO website If you’re outside the EU, you'll need to hire an agent to do it for you. You can search for an agent in your country through the EU IPO as well. Cost = $0 if you live in the EU, ~$200 if you need an agent.
- China: Hire a reputable agent on the mainland to do it for you - we used Anli Partners who were great. Remember, you have to be the first to file the trademark otherwise your application will be rejected. Cost = ~$1,500.
Should open source companies trademark their brand names?
The phrase 'open source' might denote a public codebase, but a brand name can definitely be trademarked. For example, we want people to deploy our open source edition wherever they please, but we don't want them to slap the 'PostHog' name on random products. Besides, if you’re raising money for your startup in the future, IP is a box that investors will want you to check as part of their diligence.
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