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Trademark Your Event Name

How do you keep someone else from opening up an attraction with the same name right down the street from you and scabbing off your good name and reputation? A patent, copyright, or what?

A patent is the legal protection from use by another of an "idea," e.g. a new product or invention, and is a lengthy and costly endeavor. A copyright is used to protect the written word, music, photos, artwork or even a costume from unauthorized reproduction, and can be done easily for about $200 per copyright. But neither of these protects a name from use by others! For that you need a trademark. Once a name is trademarked, it becomes the property of the trademark owner. This "intellectual property" cannot legally be used without permission of the mark owner, and it is up to that owner to keep other people from using it.

If you are just a small non-profit Haunt and not looking at nationwide domination, you may just want to get a DBA (Doing Business As) for the name, or perhaps a statewide trademark. All you have to do is go to the city courthouse and fill out the required paperwork; there may be a minimal fee. However, if you have dreams of being a nationally known Haunt and do not want anyone in another state using your name, possibly confusing out of state people looking for your show, you may want to register your name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/).

Trademarks have been around for as long as there have been company or product names, and many names we might like to use are already taken. It is a good chance that there were people haunting before you were even born (me, for one), and many of the "good" names are already trademarked. (Sorry, but age does have some privileges.) All that means is that you will have to be a bit more creative!

The only legal reason to protect the name you have come up with is to "stop confusion in the market place." However, to qualify for a trademark you have to be using the name in "interstate commerce," i.e. across state lines. This is easy if you have a web site, or are close enough to a state line to put a small ad in newspapers in both states.

Hopefully you have already gone to the library and looked in the newspaper at the last Friday in October for the last few years. This is a good way to collect names for all the Haunts in your area. Make sure that your name is not even similar to any of these.

Safe terms to use as part of your attraction name are Terror, Nightmare (both of which are overused in my opinion), Haunted House, Haunted Trail, and Haunted Attraction, (Haunted Mansion and Haunted Hayride may be protected, although I do not see how).

Your best bet is to combine these "safe" words with something that no one else would want to use or ever thought of using before, like "Billy Joe Bob's Haunted Car Wash." Or, you could make up a word that is not in the dictionary, like "Demjibfg, City of the Dead" or "Likufik House of Horrors." On the trademark and patent web site there is a search function for you to use to see if the name you are trying to protect is already being protected against your usage!

If you want to call your Haunt "Susan's Asylum," and there happens to be a trademark for that name, but it is for a real mental hospital, you can still trademark the name for a Haunted Attraction. However, you are not (or at least they say you are not) allowed to trademark the name "Car Wash" if what you are using it for is a Car Wash, because the name describes what the business is. "Bob's Car Wash" is trademarkable, as is "Bob's Haunted House," but "Haunted House" alone is not!

If you find that your name idea is already being used, or has been used in the past, don't use it. You will not have original use and someone can take it away from you someday. But if your search reveals that "Billy Bob's Haunted Car Wash" has never been trademarked, there is a form to fill out to register (protect) the name. There is a fee of $335, plus service fees that vary with the situation.

You can hire an attorney for all of this, but if you do it yourself, the worst that can happen is you lose the registration fee. A trademark attorney will cost you a bit more!

You are still not out of the woods, because the trademark office will now do their own search, and if they find a similar trademark that did not show up in your search, or if your name is too generic, they will kick out the application and keep your money. If they accept your registration, you can then start using "TM" after "Billy Bob's Haunted Car Wash" to show people that you are planning to register the name. For some time even after you are awarded a registered trademark and allowed to use the "R" in the little circle, if someone contests the usage and can prove that they used the name first on an actual business, they can still take the name.

After all of that, once you do get the name registered, it is your intellectual property and your responsibility to keep anyone else from using the name! If you find out that someone is using the name and you do not tell them to stop, you are in violation of trademark laws and could lose the trademark.

Wait; you're still not done! Every few years you will have to renew the trademark or it will be considered abandoned, and you'll have to start the process all over. They do not warn you either; one day you are looking on www.uspto.gov and you find out that the trademark you are still using is no longer yours!

So in all the commotion of obtaining insurance and security for your event, do not overlook protecting the one thing that just might have the most value; your name!

Related links >>>

United States Patent and Trademark Office

Trademark Search

Trademark Resources >>>

Allmark Trademark - Features trademark information and a full line of search services.

Devine Corporation - Search service for trademarks, service marks, trade and business names, patents, and litigation.

Lawmart.com - Provides trademark and U.S. patent searches, copyright services and legal and government agency forms/documents associated with intellectual property.

Legalname.com - Offers full service trademark search and registration services.

MarkMonitor - Trademark, domain names, domain registration and web & internet searching.

NameProtect.com - Search and register trademarks online.

Namington Trademark Design - Trademark design, search, and registration services, including domain names.

TradeMark Express - Research services for business, services and product names.

4TradeMark.com - Offering trademark search and registration services. Expedited service available.

Trademark.com - Patent and trademark searching and document ordering. Information Ventures Trademarks, Etc. - Trademark searches and form preparations for the entrepreneurial community.

Tradename.com - Offering brand name, trademarks, and domain name searches and registration.

Webton Office - Offering trademark registration, and US federal trademark search.


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