Trademarks for Photographers: The Ultimate Legal Guide

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Trademarks for Photographers: The Complete Guide for Your Photography Business. A trademark is something that indicates the source of your goods and services. Most commonly, it is a word, slogan, design, or a combination of those things. Trademark rights are important because, among other things, they can entitle the rights holder to stop others from using the same or similar mark in a confusingly similar way. This prevents consumer confusion and others from riding on your hard-earned brand coat tails.

You begin developing trademark rights as soon as you start using your trademark with your goods and services. But those rights are limited, including to the geographic areas in which you are providing the services. Additional benefits—such as nationwide rights, a presumption of ownership of the mark, and the ability to use the ® registration symbol—are available if you register your trademark with the
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Given the benefits of trademark registration, it is generally advisable for photographers to register their business name as a trademark with the USPTO. It may also make sense to register any logo or slogan that is central to your branding strategy. The presumption of ownership and nationwide rights dramatically mitigates the risk that you will need to rebrand in the future. Having a federal registration also strengthens your ability to stop others from using confusingly similar marks for photography-related services. For example, you will be much more successful at having Instagram remove infringing uses of similar marks if you have a federal registration for your trademark.


When Should You Register Your Trademark 

Generally, you should apply to register your photography business name as a trademark as soon as you know what the name will be. Many trademark rights are based on a first-intime framework, meaning the sooner you use and register your mark, the stronger your rights will be. Moreover, if you are unable to register your mark for some reason, you will want to know this as soon as possible so you can determine whether to rebrand before you have invested significant time and money in a difficult-to-protect brand. 


Do You Need an Attorney for a Photographer Trademark Registration? 

You can file for a trademark registration without the assistance of an attorney here. But given the intricacies of the law, I generally recommend using an attorney. An experienced trademark attorney will know how to best advise you on your trademark’s registrability, prepare your application, and respond to the USPTO on various issues that might arise throughout the process. In the long run, using an
attorney will generally save you money and provide you with better results.


How Else Should You Protect Your Photography Business and Brand 

The number one thing you should do in addition to registering your trademark for your photography business is to acquire every domain name and social media username you might want to use. Unused domain names are relatively cheap and social media accounts are generally free. 


What If Someone Else Already Owns Your Desired Name or Username?

There are options for acquiring domain names and usernames from others, such as
the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, take down requests to third party platforms, and direct negotiation. Realistically, though, these options can be expensive with low odds of success. It’s almost always better to simply pick unused domains and usernames from the get-go. That said, if that’s not possible or desirable from a branding perspective, you should reach out to an attorney to discuss your options.

Trademarks for Photographers Action Steps: 

  1. Search Google for your business name to see if others are using it.
  2. Acquire the domain name for your business.
  3. Sign up for social media accounts.
  4. Contact a trademark attorney about registering your business name as a trademark or apply to register your mark yourself here.

 

Explore More Legal Resources for Photographers HERE.

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Through my best-selling courses, thriving 1:1 tailored coaching experience, professional done-for-you business services, and powerful business templates, I inspire and empower photographers to take control of their businesses and realize that “Wow, I can do this!”
 
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