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5 Tips: Defending your brand name and registered trademark




In 1986, I discovered that colleges and universities were playing host to conferences and groups during the summer months when the students were gone and facilities were sitting empty. It occurred to me that these campuses were not being promoted or marketed to meeting and event planners and that there was an opportunity for someone to create a service to help campuses get the word out about their vacant facilities. That someone was me, and I’m still promoting campuses and many other non-traditional venues thirty years later.

In the early years when we were only marketing colleges and universities, I chose to name the company: Collegiate Conferences. Little did I know that a company by that name located in Wisconsin owned a registration for that trademark.

I remember getting a letter from their attorney. In the letter was a copy of a check that they had received from one of our clients. Even though we were not engaged in the same type of business activity, college purchasing offices were getting our companies mixed up and this was creating confusion.

I immediately sought the advice of a trademark attorney and I promptly responded to Collegiate Conferences explaining that it was an honest mistake and that I would immediately stop using their name. We promptly changed our name and they were satisfied.

Today, we are frequently on the receiving end of this situation. Unique Venues® is a registered trademark. Like Rollerblade® is to in-line skating or Kleenex® to facial tissue, our name has quickly become the brand name associated with non-traditional meeting and event venues.

While it’s great to have coined and captured the name that everyone likes to use, it’s our company’s name and can only be used when referring to our company and its services. Here are my top 5 tips for defending your registered trademark and brand name:

1 – Set up alerts and regularly scan your competition. I have typically found most of our trademark infringements from reading the Google Alerts that I’ve set up. We also have very loyal customers who will tip us off when they receive something from another company that is either using our name or attempting to look like our company.

2 – Get good advice from an expert. We have an excellent trademark attorney in Denver who has given us solid advice for years. She helped us secure our trademark registration and assists in managing the mark, defending it, etc. This is not something you want to wing or do on your own. Get the right help and pay for it.

3 – Educate your staff and vendors so they can be on the lookout for infringements. Make sure your team (and your vendors) know what to look for, what’s ok and what isn’t. Our search engine optimization partners will often see something long before we do. Get as many eyes and ears on this as possible.

4 – Assume (at first) that it’s unintentional. We always take that approach because in many cases, it is unintentional. We bring it to their attention in a friendly fashion and ask them to stop using our name. 99% of the time, they do.

5 – Get lucky enough to deal with cooperative businesses with strong moral principles. As a young entrepreneur, I remember being so grateful for the manner in which Collegiate Conferences handled our error. While that’s not been our experience with every company we’ve come in contact with, we have experienced cooperation and ethical support from most.
 
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