Andrei Mincov, Founder and CEO of Trademark Factory started his career in intellectual property because of his father. Even though Andrei had just started law school, he never actually saw himself as a lawyer. But then one day his father (a famous composer) heard his music on the radio. They took a song that Andrei and his father used to sing together in concert and made it into an ad for Samsung without his knowledge or consent. When Andrei’s father called up the radio station to say they couldn’t use his song without his permission or without paying him, they essentially told him to sit down, shut up, and be grateful they were making him more famous.
This was not the right thing to say to Mr. Mincov.
The year was 1996 and Russia had just switched from soviet copyright law to free-market copyright law, and in Russia, you didn’t need to be a licensed attorney to take someone to court. So as a law student, Andrei Mincov took the case all the way to the second highest court in the nation and won.
In doing so, a passion to protect people and the intellectual property that only exists because they created it was born. Andrei Mincov now lives in Vancouver, Canada and is the founder and CEO of Trademark Factory International.
N: Why is Trademarking important?
A: Trademarking is the only way to legally own and protect the brand you are trying to build for your business. Nothing else works. Incorporation doesn’t work. Building an LLC doesn’t work. Getting a domain name doesn’t work. Being in business for 10 years doesn’t work. Those things are useful for your business, but when it comes to you being able to legally stop others from using your brand to compete with you, or even to drive you out of your own brand, the only thing that works is a federally registered trademark. By the time you become big and successful, someone will have trademarked your brand, it may as well be you.
N: For the entrepreneurs who are building a tangible product and have a patent, do they still need a trademark?
A: A patent protects the idea behind the product. It does nothing for the brand. My best example is Coca-Cola. They filed their first trademark in 1892. They got their trademark in 1893, they still keep renewing that same trademark and they’ll keep renewing it for as long as they’re allowed. In 1892, Coca-Cola was selling nine drinks a day. It was a lemonade stand with a dream. The only reason they went ahead and trademarked their brand back in the day, was because they realized if they wanted to build something that would conquer the world as it did, there was no point in trying to build it without owning it.
N: When do entrepreneurs need to consider trademarking and what is the most important thing to trademark?
A: The most important thing to trademark is the name. Name of the business, name of the product, name of the service. Sometimes they’re one in the same, sometimes they’re different. In terms of when, really as soon as you realize that you’re doing something serious about your brand. If you think that you will be in business 2-3 years from now under the same brand, and if you think there’s a possibility that this business under this brand is going to make you at least six-figures in the next 2-3 years, you’ve got to trademark your brand today. The trademarking process takes a long time, in the U.S. it now takes around 16 months on average. So, if you think you might need a registered trademark 6 months from now, then you’re 10 months late.
N: Are there any “myths” regarding trademarks you think entrepreneurs should be aware of?
A: Really the result of what we call “file and pray” services that claim to help entrepreneurs get their brands trademarked for like $99. This nonsense unfortunately has fooled a lot of people. In most cases it doesn’t work. Because all they do is file your trademark and leave you out in the cold when something happens. Which it does. In about 67-81% of the cases the trademark’s office is going to say no. And these “file and pray” services aren’t equipped to argue with the trademark’s office because they’re not attorneys. Recently, just a month ago, the U.S. PTO cancelled tens of thousands of trademarks filed through those companies because they were defrauding the U.S. PTO, they were defrauding the public. The biggest problem is people don’t realize the process. They think it’s like a domain name, they pay a little bit, and they get the trademark. And that’s how those websites are built: “fill out the form and in 15 minutes you’re going to have a trademark”, no you won’t.
That’s kind of the crusade that I’ve been on trying to educate people. We’ve got 800 free videos on our YouTube channel trying to teach people what the trademarking process looks like. A monkey can file a trademark, it’s what happens after that matters.
N: Is trademarking something entrepreneurs can do on their own without the help of a lawyer or specialty service?
A: That’s why you get those crazy refusal numbers. You can do a lot of things on your own. There’s nothing mystical about trademarking, anyone can learn that. Most business owners are smart enough to do it, the question is do you want to invest the time to learn to do it properly? Or do you want to have someone who’s filed thousands of Trademarks and responded to thousands of office actions do that for you while you focus your energy on building the business?
There are a lot of good attorneys out there who can file and register your trademark, and I’ve got nothing bad to say about them. Except that they treat people like ATMs. They file your trademark, but when there’s an office action coming, that’s when they ask you to open your wallet and pay by the hour to respond to the trademark’s office. I just don’t believe in that model. What we do is you pay once and the whole thing is covered from filing to registration, and if at any point something happens and you don’t get your trademark, you get all your money back.
With Trademark Factory, we’re the only firm in the world that offer Trademarking services with a guaranteed result for a guaranteed budget. Nobody else does this. With us, on average a client spends about $3200 whether they go with one trademark, multiple trademarks, one country, different countries, etc. There’s variation of course, but on average an order is $3200 plus the government fees. The way we look at that is if your brand is not worth that, then it’s probably not worth anything. If your time is not worth that, then you’re probably doing something wrong, you’re not running a business you’re running a hobby. I really don’t mean this in a bad way, I mean it in that your role as a business owner is to figure out how to build something that’s going to generate serious money for years to come. If you want to grow your business faster, you should use people who help you get there faster, not try to learn everything on your own.
N: What are the risks of not trademarking?
A: Someone else will trademark it for themselves. There is this thing called common law trademark. Which means that even without any registration, if you’ve been known under this brand to a lot of people, you may prove that you’ve got a recognizable ownership in your brand. The problem with that is the proving. Proving happens in court, and that’s going to cost you at least ten times more than getting a trademark.
Why would you even consider carrying that risk when there is a specific procedure designed to make everyone’s lives easier? Think about this, there are more than 700,000 trademark applications filed in the U.S. every year.
Trademarks, intellectual property were really designed to help the little guy more than it was designed to help the big guy.
I know how much passion goes into trying to build a business, all these sleepless nights, all these thoughts ‘How can I build it? How can I make it better? How can I get people to know that I exist?' And then one day you realize you’ve built something and it’s working. I know how much heartbreak comes when you receive that cease-and-desist letter that says this brand is not yours. The reason we have the culture here is because I built it based on personal experience.
N: If you were on stage at our conference, in front of a room full of entrepreneurs, what is the number one piece of advice you would give?
A: Your brand is not worthless. There’s value to what you’re building and don’t let anyone talk you into believing that what you’ve built has no value. Because really this is where a lot of entrepreneurs starting out are, they believe in what they’re building, but no one else around them does. When I was building Trademark Factory in the early days, sometimes I felt like I’d built the best platform, except all we had was a little boy sending out paper airplanes once a day, but I knew we had the capacity to help a lot more people than we were helping.
N: You were a lemonade stand with a dream.
A: Exactly. The biggest lesson is not just about trademarks, it’s about everything. Don’t listen to people who don’t believe in your dream. Trademarks are not for what your business is today, Trademarks are for what your business will be when it becomes what you’re hoping it will be.
For more information, contact Trademark Factory.