Entrepreneurs won’t waste this plague opportunity.

Throughout history, great minds have used times of seclusion to create their best work. During the Bubonic Plague of 1665-66, Isaac Newton retreated from Cambridge to a countryside farm. While holed up, he invented calculus and formulated his laws of motion and gravity.

The same will be true of this plague. Entrepreneurs will use this quiet time to plan new business ventures. And when an entrepreneur creates a plan, the venture will need a name – a brand – in legal speak, a trademark.

Tip to entrepreneurs: Envision building a brand to be like building a strong fort. (Hat tip to trademarks blogger Eric Pelton for the idea of thinking of marks protection as a fort.)

A fort and a brand have similar purposes. A fort is where you can accumulate and store treasure, and protect that treasure from theft or destruction by others. A brand is where you build and store goodwill from consumers. Your brand should engender favorable recognition by consumers so they will be repeat customers and refer others.

Imagine a fort with four walls and a domain (a big yard) around it. Each wall serves purpose, as does the domain. The four walls represent trademark selection, clearance, registration, and proper usage. The domain is your buffer zone – the distance in trademark-wording similarity between your trademark and the trademarks used by those offering the same or similar products and services.

Here’s what each of the five elements of the fort does:

Wall 1 – Selection.

Don’t pick a name that’s a generic name for your product or service, like calling a car an AUTOMOBILE. You can’t have a trademark in a generic name.

Don’t pick a name that merely describes your goods, like calling a bank PEOPLE’S BANK. You won’t be able to protect that name.

It’s better to pick a name that only suggests something about your product (like CHAMPION for sporting goods) or that has nothing to do with your goods (like APPLE for computers) or that’s a made-up word (like EXXON for gas).

Wall 2 – Clearance.

In trademarks, as with horseshoes and hand grenades, too close will kill you. You can’t use a trademark that’s too close to another trademark being used for the same or similar goods or services.

Come up with a list of at least five dissimilar trademark candidates. Have a trademark attorney vet them before you commit to one. Pick the one that does best in clearance.

The more space in wording similarity between your trademark and the trademarks of similar businesses, the better your brand will stand out in the marketplace and avoid confusion with others. This space will be your trademark buffer zone – your domain.

Wall 3 – Registration.

You then will federally register your trademark. Doing so creates at least 23 advantages you won’t have if you merely use your trademark without registering it.

Wall 4 – Proper Usage.

Don’t kill your trademark by how you use it. Use appropriate symbols to identify it as your trademark property, such as using ® after it becomes federally registered. Don’t use your trademark as the generic or descriptive name of what you are branding, and don’t allow others to do so.

The Domain – the Buffer Zone.

To protect your domain, have your trademark attorney to perform regular trademark-infringement watching and policing, to keep that buffer zone clear. The biggest mistake brand owners typically make is not having this done.

Why Does this Matter?

Think about what happens if one of a real fort’s walls is missing or crumbles, or if you don’t keep the domain around the fort clear. Eventually, the fort will be conquered.

Similarly, if you don’t build and maintain a strong trademark fort, your brand will fall. If that happens, the consumer goodwill associated with your wonderful product or service will be lost and your business will decline.

© 2020 Leading-Edge Law Group, PLC. All rights reserved.

Like this blog? Visit the Brand Bodyguards blog for more!


Marketing is more poised than other industries to adapt to changing landscapes including COVID-19. Listen to Dominion Payroll’s webinars on Marketing in the COVID-19 Era here.

Key takeaways include:

  • Adapting to solve problems
  • Marketing insights on how to shift
  • Left foot, right foot, left foot, lift foot or wiggle your big toe

Guests include:

  • Kristen Cavallo, CEO of The Martin Agency
  • Natalie McNamara, Chief Strategist/Founder of CreativeMktGroup
  • Kevin Mullaney, Vice President at Brandito
  • Moderator, Kevin Wilson, Director of Community Engagement, Dominion Payroll

Like this webinar? Dominion Payroll has a catalog of COVID-19 resources including a daily webinar series.

About Dominion Payroll

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Dominion Payroll offers payroll, HR, timekeeping, and pre-employment solutions to meet all of your business needs. We have offices in Richmond, VA, Dallas, TX, Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN, and Tampa, FL, and provide services to clients in all 50 states. Our dedication to customer service has helped DP grow to thousands of clients ranging in size from 1 to 2,500 employees, and we have a wealth of experience helping clients of all shapes and sizes manage the business of employment. DP is quickly becoming the premier choice for customized payroll and HR solutions, and we’d love to serve you!

At Dominion Payroll, we make your tomorrow happen by empowering you today. We’re not only a workforce management company; we’re your partners, tailoring solutions custom-fitted to your business’ unique needs with industry-leading software and exemplary support. Empowering your business…that’s our business. That’s Dominion Payroll.

Our chapter provided a resource last week with the Teach Me How webinar “How to Lead in Crisis”, led by executive coach, Danessa Knaupp. The presentation included leadership advice applicable for today and tomorrow, not just in times of crisis. I’ve included some downloadable takeaways from her presentation and book, “Naked at Work, a Leaders Guide to Fearless Authenticity”. (Thank you to our sponsor, Dotted Line, for designing these backgrounds!) 
Many of the core themes Danessa touched on were echoed in this weekend’s AMA Leadership Summit. (Background, AMA Leadership Summit is the annual conference gathering together leaders of AMA chapters from all over North America. The goal is to learn about new tools and offerings from leading marketers and colleagues, share ideas between the chapters, and implement them in our home chapters.) 
Russ Klein, the CEO of the American Marketing Association, capped things off with the sentiment:

“Marketers will be needed, more than ever, at all levels to rekindle growth and recovery of the lost economic value and financial stability across every community on the planet.”

Russ, volunteer AMA leaders, and AMA’s Support Center championed this message throughout the weekend–almost as though they were rallying a team to storm the field and win the finals. I was energized by the community and passion I experienced throughout the weekend and want to share a few thoughts about our role as marketers:
We are all leaders. 
We are communicators. 
We are educators. 
We are helpers. 

We have the skills to spark inspiration, support, determination, and hope – many of the things necessary to overcome adversity and the crisis our world is facing.
With a weekend of learnings and ideas buzzing in our heads, and a renewed commitment to our local marketing community, we want to know: How can we support YOU – the local marketer? How can we embody our mission to be the vital community for Richmond Region marketers to connect, learn, serve, and grow? Drop us a line at info@amarichmond.org and let us know what’s most important or valuable to you.
NOTE: You can also learn more about accessing the “Teach Me How to Lead in Crisis” replay, or some of our other recorded events, by emailing us at info@amarichmond.org.