Why Influencers Need to Register Trademarks

influencer trademark registration

Social media influencers need to register trademarks just as any other business enterprise does. Influencers create content under unique handles and user-names that potentially draw followers in numbers that standard retail businesses can only dream of.

The entertainment, broadcasting, and other “services” provided by social medial influencers is, furthermore, entirely internet-based. Thus, influencers are uniquely vulnerable to trademark and copyright infringement on a global basis.

Registration of influencers’ names, handles, and logos and other branding design elements can protect against infringement.

Trademark registration ensures that every click lands on the right influencer. It also increases the future value of an influencer’s handle.

What is trademark registration, however?

Trademark Registration for Influencers: A Quick Explanation

Trademark registration is a grant of the exclusive right to the use of a name, logo, slogan, or other “source-identifier” by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

That is, the trademark identifies an influencer as the source of his or her products or services to consumers in US commerce.

“Commerce” does not mean that money has to be directly changing hands between an influencer and his or her follower, by the way. It simply means that you transact your services over state lines in a market that is or can be regulated by Congress. If you earn money from third-party advertising placements on your YouTube, Vimeo, TikTok, Facebook, or Instagram videos and posts, that is “money-related” commerce, in any case.

In addition to using your influencer handle in commerce, it must also be unique enough to specifically identify you as the source of your service or product. (Thus, “source-identifier.”)

To meet this requirement, the handle or logo or name must not be generic or misleading. It cannot merely describe your service or product. (That is, influencers should not name themselves “Detroit YouTube Video-Maker” or similarly bland names.)

Likewise, the name or handle cannot have been registered already by any other influencer.

Further, it is also problematic if the handle is in use and has been in use in commerce by another influencer long than you’ve been using it. Under US Common Law, the right to exclusive use of a trademark belongs to whomever has been using it longest. Regardless of whether a US trademark registration application has ever been filed.

This is one of the reasons that a Michigan trademark attorney will always conduct a full trademark clearance search that reviews use of your influencer handle before filing a trademark registration application for you.

How Does Trademark Registration Help Influencers?

We’ve touched on why it is important for influencers to register their trademarks. By virtue of the  online nature of an influencer’s work, the possibility of name-theft and infringement is not only global but potentially instantaneous. Likewise, the global reach that influences achieve means that their potential “customer base” is vast indeed.

Trademark registration grants an influencer enormous commercial advantages.

A US trademark registration will:

  • Prevent any other influencer from registering a similar name or handle;
  • Allow you to oppose the approval of trademark registration applications by other influencers;
  • Allows you to request that US Customs block the import of infringing products;
  • Allows you to request take-down processes from YouTube and other platforms utilized by influencers;
  • Allows you to sue infringers in US Federal Court;
  • Allows use to use the ® registered trademark symbol;
  • Quietly stop other influencers from using your handle in the first place.

This last trademark registration “super-power” works because the USPTO Trademark Registry is publicly viewable.

When another influencers hires a trademark lawyer to register a handle or name, that lawyer will conduct a clearance search of that handle or name. If you have already registered your handle or name, that other influencer’s trademark lawyer will find the registration and advise that influencer to re-brand rather than moving forward.

That is the “quiet” power of trademark registration. The best part about it is that it doesn’t cost you a cent once you’ve obtained your registration certificate.

Trademark Registration Builds Credibility

Beyond the legal benefits of trademark registration, it can also help influencers and any other business build credibility.

No business—including the one-person cottage industries that are social media influencers—has credibility if it does not own its intellectual properties.

Trademarks, copyrights, rights of publicity, even patents where applicable … These are all properties that comprise a brand. It is to the name and logo used by an enterprise when marketing to consumers that loyalty attaches.

Customers remember the Golden Arches, not so much the hamburgers, in other words.

Likewise, without a registered trademark you cannot license your handle, name, logo, or other branding elements. You also cannot franchise your business.

Trademark registration is required for the growth of any brand. Without a registered US trademark, your brand is exposed to copying, fraud, and dilution. Trademark registration and the appearance of the ® registered trademark symbol tells consumers that you are a serious business. The registered trademark symbol assures consumers that your brand is legitimate and can be trusted.

This is no different for influencers than for any other type of business. The bottom line is that you need to register your trademark in order to monetize your brand.

How Do Influencers Create Strong Trademarks?

Any smart business creates its name and brand identity with trademark registration in mind. A business that starts out with a generic name that cannot be registered as a US trademark will either remain a local, neighborhood business forever—or will eventually be forced to entirely re-brand at much greater cost.

This is the reason that pharmaceutical companies develop such flowery-sounding names for their drug products. They know what makes a strong trademark from tried-and-true experience. Thus, they create product names accordingly.

Influencers should do the same. What is a strong trademark?

We’ve touched on it briefly, above. A strong trademark:

  • Is not generic (e.g., “Social Media Influencer”);
  • Is not descriptive (e.g., “Political YouTube Video Producer”);
  • Is not just your actual, common name (e.g., “Dave Jones”);
  • Is not deceptive (“Free Money and Beer Blogger”);
  • Is not just a geographic place-name (“Detroit Instagram Posts”);
  • Is not just a foreign translation of a descriptive or already-used English language term (e.g., “Kahve,” which is Turkish for “coffee,” for coffee-related services);
  • Does not use a celebrity’s name without permission;
  • Has not been used by anyone else first.

In particular, a strong trademark falls to the right on the below “Spectrum of Distinctiveness.” That is, it is an “arbitrary” or “fanciful” trademark and not a generic or descriptiveness trademark.

Spectrum of Distinctiveness

A “fanciful” trademark is the strongest sort of trademark or name. It is a made-up word that has no meaning in the English (or another) language. Think of those pharmaceutical drug-names mentioned above.

An “arbitrary” trademark is a term or word with independent meaning but which is not at all descriptive. Think Apple Computers here. They don’t sell fruit or produce, do they?

Influencer Handles: The Marketing Perspective

From a non-legal, marketing perspective, a good influencer handle, first, follows all of the rules above for strong trademark creation. Beyond that, however, some key strategies for user-name, handle, or development include:

  • Keep it short and sweet (but arbitrary or fanciful!);
  • Use keywords—without being descriptive!
  • Use the same handle across all social media platforms … This is good for brand recognition as well as supporting your claim of use in commerce for trademark registration purposes.
  • Think outside the box (see above regarding arbitrary or fanciful marks);
  • Convey your topic: Even if creating a fanciful name, it can imply on a “musical” or “poetic” level the topic you’re addressing or audience you are attempting to reach (artistic vs. business professional vs. techie vs. whomever).
  • Check availability: Hire an experienced Michigan trademark attorney to run a trademark clearance search on whatever you come up with before investing money in it.

Influencers, Discuss Your Handles with an Experienced Trademark Registration Lawyer

As an influencer, your job is to entertain and inform. However, there are times when you need good information yourself.

Noble Path Trademark Law is a boutique US law practice located in Metro Detroit and assisting entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, artists, musicians, start-ups, and larger enterprises with robust intellectual property portfolios in all industries and in all states with trademark registration, trademark renewal, trademark monitoring, and Office Action refusal response matters.

We offer virtual consultations, premium customer service, and the expertise you need to maximize your odds of trademark registration, Letter of Protest, or Opposition success.

Additionally, we also have nearly 20 years of experience representing Michigan bankruptcy clients and Michigan business clients.

Click the “Register Your Trademark” button below to schedule your initial consultation and to begin your brand protection journey.

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