Startup founders consider picking a company name one of the most important parts of their company’s life. You can’t succeed without a good name, right? Well, while you’re searching for a new name, or if you’ve already got one trademarked, Stockholm-based Markify provides a free search service of confusingly similar trademarked names so you can be sure you’re doing everything to protect yourself from legal trouble.
This issue is particularly important in Europe. In the U.S., the trademark office will at least do a basic search of existing names when new trademarks are applied for. But in Europe, it’s seen as the trademark holder’s responsibility to protect their own name from confusingly similar new submissions. For this, Markify offers a free trademark watch for one name so you can be updated when new similar trademarks are submitted. You can also watch more names as part of their premium service.
While he’s not a trademark lawyer, co-founder Benoit Fallenius has spent a lot of time around trademark search. His father-in-law was a university professor in Computational Linguistics and helped develop one of the first trademark systems – later sold to Compumark, which is now owned by Thompson Reuters.
Compared to the high costs and barriers to entry of Thompson Compumark, Fallenius always had a different idea of how a trademark search service should work. With the web’s democratization of many other specialized services, Fallenius pictured a trademark watching service that wasn’t just for attorneys, but also for small business owners and startup founders who wanted to protect their name.
To create Markify, Fallenius and his two technical co-founders, Ann-Kristin Ledung and Clas Person, spent two years building the trademark searching system behind Markify before releasing it to the public. To build their system, they trained their algorithm off of actual case literature of disputed trademark claims to help it discover trademarks that were similar enough to be contested.
Markify has now grown to five people after their recent SEK2.3 M (€260 000) investment by CNCP, and has grown to see 100,000 users per month. Markify also became number 1 in the US benchmark of trademark search services with 99% accuracy (the next closest is 45%), but to be fair, Fallenius tells me that the study did not include the other high quality paid trademark search services that can run $500 a word.
In the future they’re planning on launching a trademark registration service that startup founders should find useful. Markify will partner with experienced trademark partners to offer two different packages: one lets you register trademarks on your own, and one will provide more help and guidance for navigating through the process.
Just talking to Fallenius for this article I came across some of my own misconceptions about trademarks. To combat this, I asked him to come up with a list of things every entrepreneur should know before picking a new name. Here’s what he told me:
1. Choose a name that can be trademarked.
Why? You will avoid conflicts, enable expansion and sleep better. There are two basic requirements on your new trademark:
a) It should not be generic in your business area. The name “CoolApps” is generic if you’re going to deliver a new marketplace for apps.
b) No one else should be using a “confusingly similar” trademark in your potential markets. Start your search at markify.com for confusingly similar marks. Avoid all similar marks that are in your line of business. If you are uncertain, contact a trademark attorney.
2. Buy all relevant domain names.
a) For most international start-ups that means a .com. Don’t only look for available domain names. Even if the domain name is taken, it often is for sale. Average prices for domain names at auctions are $500
b) Buy 5-10 typos.
c) Buy at least 5-10 country extensions (ccTLDs). Choose the biggest markets where you think you may expand.
3. Register the trademark in your primary market.
In Europe choose the Pan-European CTM trademark, which covers 27 EU countries for a fee of 850 Euros.
In the US a USPTO trademark costs $325.
4. Watch and protect your trademark.
If there is a new confusingly similar application you should act upon it. So sign up for a free trademark watch at Markify.