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Startup Mistakes to Avoid: When to use Trademarks

October 31, 2012

Guest blog by Greg Dillon, marketing strategist and founder of Phopus.

You might have a great word, phrase or symbol to distinguish your brand, but don’t forget to protect your small business with trademarks.

Last time I wrote about my progression to building an online photography community through to development stage, today I will talk through a few practicalities of building your online, or offline, small business.

It has been three months since I started and development has been going strong and steady. I still have daily communication with my developer and his staff – they are doing great work. It has been challenging to get across the full scope of what I’m trying to achieve here – they get it from an information flow point of view but not from the design perspective or my vision to create a community hub for aspiring amateur photographers.

That being said, I’m not saying they are doing a bad job as they are doing far from a bad job, but it’s sometimes problematic when they occasionally overlook the intricate details of what I’m trying to have built.

For example, on what would normally have been a day, I’m now reviewing the full marketing brief I sent them to ensure that everything I requested and agreed on is being delivered or is at least in the pipeline to be delivered for launch. I can’t start, writing about, promoting and selling this awesome concept if I can’t delivery the functionality in the website I envision. If the website isn’t up to par, I will have committed a cardinal sin against the people I want to have involved and that cannot happen.

It is amazing how passionate you become when you realize what is at stake and what could be as long as all the pieces fall in to place.

Nothing more so than after discussing, emailing people with ideas and having this article published with Hiscox, as well as tweeting about it and having people from all over the world emailing me with entrepreneurial tales of their own – I suddenly realized that I had not trademarked anything to do with the concept!

Weirdly, on my Twitter feed that same day I saw an article on ‘the eight most common startup fails’. Naturally I needed to read this and sure enough, number one was not getting legal protection for the brand or the logo. Running low on capital, I searched the net and spoke to lawyer friends to get a good steer on what I needed to do.  Then I filled out what felt like a mountain of paperwork to obtain two trademarks – one for the name ‘Phopus’ so that no one can use it in any form whatsoever and one for the logo to protect my typical treatment of the brand name, colors and tagline.

All very exciting to be honest. When I got the emails through that they have been accepted and I now owned two trademarks everything seemed a bit more real.

I felt like I was achieving something and that the plan was coming together and that it was not just a web design project but a real concept, a real startup with real prospects and real passion behind it.

I’m no longer just a guy with a website. I’m a founder.

Greg is the founder of www.phopus.com – a photography community launching soon that will give amateur photographers a platform to get their work seen by the wider photography community and to get their name known. Away from startup life he is a Twitter addict – www.twitter.com/Greg_Dillon and works as a strategist for some of the biggest brands on the planet, helping them to identify their consumers and how to leverage their competencies to best target the people who matter.