So, you’re thinking about registering a trademark. You have worked hard to choose a mark that distinguishes your product or service from the competition. Now, you’re wondering if it’s possible to protect it. “Cheap” online legal services like Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom, and Trademarkia sure are tempting.
In a world where a quick internet search can teach you how to change your oil or fix your desk drawer, doesn’t it make sense that there are now DIY options for legal services? Online legal services advertise cheap and easy alternatives to the daunting traditional law office. However, you’ve gotta tread carefully in order to avoid unexpected situations, especially when it comes to trademark searches and registration.
The Fine Print
It can be tempting to choose from one of the numerous online legal services, each promising the most bang for your buck. However, it is important to understand what you are agreeing to by using these services:
- “Information gathered from the site is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date.” In the world of trademark registration, using up-to-date information is crucial to avoid time and money.
- The trademark search might not be entirely comprehensive. LegalZoom’s own Terms of Service states that its platform only searches for marks that are “active” in the Trademark Office’s database. This means that LegalZoom’s search results do not include cancelled or abandoned applications. But, owners of abandoned or cancelled marks could still have rights to their trademarks. What does LegalZoom say? “…LegalZoom accepts no responsibility or liability for any impact that any inactive application or registration, or common law use, may have on your registration or trademark.”
- “Consult a lawyer before making a legal decision.” That thing you were trying to avoid by using an online legal service? Turns out platforms like Rocket Lawyer recommend it. The platform’s own Terms of Service recommend that you consult a lawyer.
- The information on the site might not be considered “legal advice.”
- Though not entirely trademark-related, it’s worth mentioning: you are “representing yourself in any legal matter you undertake through LegalZoom’s legal document service.”
What’s the Worst That Could Happen When Using an Online Legal Service?
Well, the worst that could happen is that you receive an unexpected cease-and-desist letter or lawsuit complaint. Addinsult to injury if the owner of a mark that’s been technically “abandoned” is on the other end. See, the value in having a trademark attorney is having someone to answer your questions and, you know, advise you. Also, federal trademark protection can be time-sensitive. Failing to do the proper due diligence prior to filing the application could amount to a big waste of time and money.
So, What Do I Do?
Sure online legal services and resources can be helpful for educational purposes. Unfortunately, things are never as simple as they seem, and using these services may cause some headaches in the future. Be smart with your money. Ask questions. Ask about flat rates. Remember that you have the freedom to openly ask an attorney about the details of her pricing structure.
The Point: Only you can decide if the peace of mind of a professional handling your trademark is worth it. But, if you would like to call and consult with a living, breathing, non-daunting trademark attorney, contact Spear IP below.
Special credit to Spear IP intern Katelyn Jezowski for this blog post!