by Donald Clark

 

I am about to apply for a trademark and have been using a name like (just an example) "Modern Mayhem Studios" to conduct business under for the past few years. I would like to just trademark "Modern Mayhem" instead of "Modern Mayhem Studios" so I can establish a company name or brand. Is that okay or would I have to keep the "studios" portion of the name in there to justify my use in interstate commerce? I offer audio production services. Thanks very much in advance for your reply!
Sincerely, Edison

I haven't thought about trademarks for some time as it's usually copyrights we seek, so I went to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) website (www.uspto.gov) to get my thoughts in order. Although Trademarks and Copyrights are both designed to protect a person's intellectual property, they serve distinctly different purposes. According to the Copyright Office, a Copyright is "a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of 'original works of authorship' including, literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works." According to USPTO, "A Trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/ or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others." The Trademark can apply to images that have been used by the applicant or can be new to be used by an applicant for a prospective business. Clearly you are correct to want a Trademark since you want to protect the umbrella under which your products are offered.

There are a number of steps required to apply for a Trademark. First, you must decide exactly what mark you want to protect. It can be a symbol or words or both and you must submit a clear representation of same. I doubt you would have a problem eliminating the word "studio" from your business name. However, you must be sure that the mark isn't already being used by others. This can be done by searching for registered marks at www.uspto.gov. Next, "Once you have chosen your mark, you must also be able to identify the goods and/or services to which the mark will apply, clearly and precisely. The identification of goods and/or services must be specific enough to identify the nature of the goods and/or services. The level of specificity depends on the type of goods and/or services." This is where it can get complicated. There are specific categories of goods and it is essential to choose the correct one. Although you can do this yourself or engage an online company to do this, it might be best to hire an attorney with a background in this work. Apparently, the USPTO makes it more difficult for an applicant the second time around. I've always felt that it's important for us to do the things we do best and to rely on the proven skills of others when needed; therefore, I'd hire a lawyer to get this done right the first time.

Decorator Dilemma
Dear Sir, I really would like to make my booth more inviting to customers. Displays are hard to find! I've been doing craft shows for 6 years, and wondering how I could find someone to help me! I don't know who to call. Do I call a decorator?
Thank you, Lily

I'll bet you are the best person to design and decorate your booth! You know your product and your typical customer better than anyone else, so I think you would be the best designer of a new booth. After 6 years, you must know what is and what isn't working about your current displays. I suggest you start by going to as many shows as you can as an observer rather than a participant. Bring a notebook as you walk the aisles recording things about other exhibitor's booths that you would like to be part of your new booth. You could also do this with a camera--that is, if photography is allowed by the show and the exhibitor.

As you begin to plan your booth, remember the three main functions it must serve: 1. to display your work, 2. to be an onsite "office," and 3. to be a storeroom for back stock and equipment. And, at the same time it must be a beautiful and inviting place that will draw in the shopper and allow them to move about comfortably, make their purchases, and get in and out without feeling trapped. Important considerations are traffic flow, color, lighting, carpeting and the all-important eye-catching element. Yes, this is a lot to ask from a space that is likely to be about 10 feet square. However, clever exhibitors do it all the time. Some time ago, Bruce Baker recorded a CD called, Booth Design and Merchandising; you might try to get a copy of this.

When you have a plan in mind, perhaps you have a friend who can handle the building part of this project. Or, check around for a local carpenter who can do the heavy work for you. Speaking of heavy, remember your booth has to go together easily and breakdown in such a way that it can be moved from show to show easily.

License, Permits, and Tax Numbers...Oh My!
I am just starting to look into craft shows in South Texas and had a few questions. I have an internet Coffee and Candle business that just doesn't seem to have taken off (www.ashtonsgourmetcoffee.com). I thought a craft show was a good way to get seen. Looking at some of the applications they ask for license, permits, and tax numbers. Am I required to get all these before I can go to a craft show? I do not charge taxes now. Can you help me?
Scotty

You don't want to mess with the tax man! Generally, with the exception of sales to tax exempt non-profits and telephone and Internet sales shipped to states where the seller doesn't have a physical presence, sellers are required to collect taxes on all retail sales. Before you can collect and report sales tax, your business must be registered with its home state. To begin the process, contact the office of the Secretary of State in your home state and request information on filing for a tax number. In many states this can be done online. Your business will be put into the state's database and you will be required to file a return, usually quarterly, and pay the taxes due on the sales you report. Further, you will be required to register in the same way in any other states where you have a physical presence even for the brief run of a craft show. This number will also allow you to purchase goods you intend to resell without paying tax.

I'm not clear what licenses and permits you would need. When I was an exhibiting craftsman I was never required to have them. However, I wasn't selling food products and you are--this may be the reason these came up. I do know that here in Massachusetts, my home state, there are very strict regulations about handling and selling food products. I suggest you contact the promoters of the various shows you are considering and ask them exactly what permits and licenses you will need and how to apply for them. Often the show promoters themselves provide the forms necessary to apply for a tax number in their state. In the meantime, do apply for a tax number; again, you really don't want to mess with the tax man.


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