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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Seattle 2.0, and imported to GeekWire as part of our acquisition of Seattle 2.0 and its archival content. For more background, see this post.

By Aaron Franklin
At first glance, a trademark can be a complicated and expensive legal process. This is the story of how I successfully registered a trademark for a total of $275 (the minimum USPTO fee).

Getting Started – Professional vs. DIY

When I started to think about a trademark, I visited a lawyer.  He wanted over $1,000 to manage the process, and told me I would regret submitting it myself.  He said I wouldn’t be equipped to respond if the application was challenged.

Moreover, the application is confusing.  What is a trademark class?  What description should you use for your goods/services? What qualifies as a specimen to prove use in commerce?  It’s no wonder most fork over the cash to a lawyer.

Breaking Down The Process

Since we’re bootstrapping, I decided to break down the process by researching the implications of making a mistake.  During my research, I found that only 3% of trademark applications are challenged. With those odds, I decided I could apply myself, and then go to a lawyer if it was challenged.All that was left was filling out the application, and this turned out to be more simple than expected.  Since you can search trademarks on the  USPTO Site or Trademarkia, you can find similar trademarks (e.g. competitors) and look for patterns.  Other questions had simple answers as well.  For example, all you need for a specimen to prove use in commerce is a screenshot of your site.  I filled out the form in less than an hour, and 6 months later we received the trademark certificate pictured above.

Conclusion and Disclaimer

You don’t need to be intimidated by the trademark process, and it doesn’t need to break the bank.  It is possible to successfully register your trademark without a lawyer.  A good strategy if you’re bootstrapping is to apply yourself, and then pull in a lawyer if you get stuck.  However, I do want to note that there is no replacing a professional and it’s always preferable to use one if you have the money.

Aaron Franklin is co-founder of LazyMeter, the solution to your overwhelming to-do list.  LazyMeter is bootrapped to the max.

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