Oct 11th 2021 | Rebranding Into Ontology of Value™️: On The International Intellectual Property Law
You might have noticed that we recently changed our name – twice! Why is that? Well, to answer this question, we need to get into the details of the international Intellectual Property Law. In this episode, I review the basics of the trademark law. What is a trademark and why should you care?
With more detailed questions about intellectual property, please contact Maciej Piekarz, an international Intellectual Property expert: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maciekpiekarz/ 🔥
Also, please check out written version of this content on our blog:
00:00 Hello, everyone, let’s talk about intellectual property. If you’ve known me for a little while already, you might have noticed that the name of the company, and also the name of this channel, has changed and it has changed two times. It was first Welcome Solutions when I registered it two years ago, and then it changed its name to Odyssey Careers earlier this year. And now, you can see me under the name, Ontology of Value. The question would be, what the heck is happening?
00:32 First to say, what is intellectual property? Well, intellectual property is any kind of human design; it can be innovation, it can be a method, it can be an algorithm. It can be a logo. It can be a piece of art. It can be a design. It can be a brand. It can be a concept. It can be a motto. It can be a career test. It can be anything that the human originally created, it can even be a joke, or a song. Depending on what type of intellectual property we’re talking about, there are different types of protection for it.
01:04 We can talk about copyrights. Copyright is something that you naturally own if you create a new piece of text, piece of music, piece of art, or I think piece of code as well. You have copyright by design, unless of course you are an employee and you do it during working time, then it works in a way that your employer becomes the owner of the intellectual property that you produced. That’s how employment works. But other than that, you are the owner, sole owner, of the intellectual property that you produce.
01:37 And it all sounds simple, but in practice is often much more difficult and much more complicated than it seems. Because to be the official owner of the intellectual property, you have to first demonstrate that you indeed created the property. And secondly, that it’s indeed novel, so it’s distinctive from other pieces of intellectual property in the space.
01:58 And intellectual property law is quite complicated, and it’s getting more complicated as the space of intellectual property becomes more and more dense. My prediction is that it will only get worse in the coming years. And that’s also why if you consider creating your own business, or if you have friends who are starting businesses, or if you as an individual would like to know better how this world works, then definitely you should learn a little bit about intellectual property.
02:27 In this episode, I would like to specifically talk about trademarks, it’s all about protecting brands for companies.
02:50 What is a trademark? A trademark can be a wording, such as Coca Cola or a piece of design, such as Coca Cola’s logo, that makes the company distinctive from other companies in this space. The purpose of protecting design or a trademark is to secure the company’s sole right to trade under a certain brand. The principle is that a trademark protects the company from being misled by other companies.
03:24 For instance, if there is a Chinese company Coke Coke or Coca Cololola, then Coca Cola might object that other company from trading in the same space; in the space of soft drinks for instance. Because that might potentially mislead their clients and lead to losses in the company because some of the clients might mix up the brand Coca Cola with another brand. And by virtue of a mistake, buying another company’s product.
03:56 To prevent such a fraud, trademarks were specifically created. You should know that there are multiple different types of trademarks, not just one. It can be a worded sign, such as the name of the company. It can also be a so-called figurative sign, which means nothing else than the logo. Or it can be a combined sign, which is a combination between a worded sign and a figurative sign. There are also multiple other types of trademarks but they are way less popular.
04:25 Between the three types, well, I personally feel that worded sign is always best to protect because it means that other companies cannot register domains under similar names as yours and also cannot trade. If you have your worded sign protected, you will be more visible online, you will be easier to find. And today, online marketing is everything. If you’re not visible online, you don’t exist.
04:51 A word sign is the best way to protect your visibility and your market share online. However, worded signs are also naturally hard to protect. Because to protect a certain brand you have to not only be distinct from other brands, but you also have to be substantially distinct. That means if your name is a synonym of another company’s name, or if your name is just a difference by a few letters. This is enough for another company to object your trademark.
05:23 In that sense, since there’s already millions of trademarks registered, it’s extremely hard to find a new catchy name for a company that doesn’t resemble any of the existing trademarked names. I mean, the more abstract your name is, the more chances you have to protect your trademark. But at the same time, the less it talks about your company and its objective, so that’s always a tradeoff. However, if you have a chance to protect a worded sign, I would say, this is the best choice you can make in your life and professional development.
05:55 Yet another type of trademark is a figurative sign. Figurative signs are, in other words, logos. They’re substantially easier to protect than word signs. It’s much easier to make yourself distinct with a distinctive logo than with a worded sign. Because there are so much more combinations of possible designs and possible coloring schemes, of course, company names and a way of stylizing it nicely than there are to worded signs.
06:23 However, on the other hand, there’s always a dark side to it. On the other hand, it doesn’t protect you from other companies registering signs and trademarks under similar names as yours. The downside is also in case your branding changes. In case you would like to refresh your logo after a few years, well, your old logo is no longer active. And many companies do it, they do rebrand and refresh their logo every now and then, every few years.
06:54 And then, you have to get a new protection for a new logo as the old one doesn’t matter anymore. I would say, this is weaker type of sign than worded sign. However, in case, it’s hard for you to register worded sign. It’s better to have a figurative sign than nothing. If your space is too dense to register worded sign but there is still a little space for you to get in with your logo then, I would say, I would go for it.
07:25 And lastly, we have combined signs, which are combinations between names and logos. If you protect that type of sign, it means that other companies are not allowed to trade under the similar name and similar logo at the same time. It’s a bit of a tradeoff between the two.
07:44 And you should know also that a company name and a trademark are two different things. One company can own multiple different trademarks for multiple products and services. And the trademark can be owned by a company; a legal person. But it can also be owned by an individual. You can also apply for a trademark. For instance, if you have a product that you’re designing right now and you’re planning a brand in some distant future then you might think of creating the branding for this product already.
08:19 Although officially to get a trademark, you have to be trading with a product already. But you may also start from creating a website for the prototype and putting a ™ sign on it, and applying for a trademark. It’s a problem of a ‘chicken and egg’; what to start with? Do you start with trading? Or do you start with protecting your brand? I would say, it’s best to start with both. And how much protection does a trademark actually give you? Of course, it’s not forever and it’s not for all the possible products and services, and for all the possible regions in the world. You have to know three things. First of all, trademarks are usually granted for 10 years, but you also have a priority to re-register the trademark after 10 years. If you would like to protect this longer, then you can just repay the fee for registration and then you can keep on using your trademark without any problems.
09:21 In this case is different from patents. Because with patents, you only get protection for certain amount of time without the possibility to prolong it. But with trademarks you can prolong for as long as you wish; as long as cash is on the table of course. And second thing is it would be a massive redundancy if one brand could be protected for all types of services and products. That’s why there are 45 different classes of goods and services that you can choose to register your trademark for.
09:55 And the first 34 classes are secured for goods; physical products. And the last 11 are secured for services. Whenever you apply for a trademark, you have to specify in which class you want to protect your brand. And you can protect your brand for multiple classes and for each additional class there is some additional fees. But in general, you can apply for multiple classes all the time.
10:22 And once you apply, you cannot extend the number of classes in the procedure. But if there are other companies that object to your trademark, you can also make a compromise and reduce the number of classes to find a compromise with another party. You can never extend but you can decrease the number of classes in the process. You should also know that officially to have a protection you should trade in a certain class.
10:48 There isn’t a reason to apply for more classes than you are physically thinking of. There isn’t a reason to apply for all 45 classes just to have a sole right to use certain brands. Because if you don’t try it in a certain area, if you don’t have any activities in a related specific class, other companies might easily object it and get on your territory in the process.
11:12 You should also know that the protection you get is not for all regions of the world. But it’s only for the local office in which you apply for a trademark. And the European Union has one joint office where you can apply for protection in all member states of the European Union. But in general, it’s hard to protect this way. Because if any of the member states there is a brand register that is somewhat similar to the brand you’re applying for, you might get objected.
11:44 That’s why, in general, it’s hard to protect your brand for the whole European Union. But you can also register your brand in any of the member states of the European Union. For instance, Benelux countries have their own office. Poland has its own office, France has its own office etc. And that’s much easier to protect. Of course, if you only apply for protection in one country, that means that your brand is not protected in other countries.
12:09 In other countries, other companies, other individuals have a right to use the same or similar brand for trading their services. However, if you want to protect your trademark worldwide, it will be extremely expensive. Because the bill for protecting it for the whole world will be 100s of 1000s of euros or dollars. But in general, most companies choose protection in their maternal country where they have headquarters and this is enough.
12:37 Once we know that there are already millions of trademarks registered. How do you know if the brand you think of is already taken? Or do you still have a chance to register and protect this brand? The best way to discover if your brand is protectable is to use the TMU website. It’s a worldwide database of trademarks, official trademark registry. And browsing through this website, you can figure out if the brand you’re thinking of is still available.
13:06 You can browse through multiple regions in the world, multiple classes and types of trademarks. You have to be careful because this registry will only show you the matches that match precisely with the phrase or words that you put in. It will not show you synonyms, and it will not show you similar words, that only differ by a few letters, or translations of your word. It will not show you French or German or other versions of your, for instance, English word that you type in.
13:43 In fact, these might be already good grounds for other companies to object your trademark, if your branding is very close. Even a translation or synonym might be already a problem to other companies in the space who trade in the same areas as you. That’s why my advice for you is always look for a professional Patent Office or some other patent specialist or trademark specialist who specializes in intellectual property law, especially trademark law. Because those people have a specialized software and they have knowledge necessary to tell if your brand is safe to register or not.
14:25 What type of costs are we talking about? Well, in the European Union, the application for the whole EU cost 850 euros for the first class and then 50 euros for the second class, and then 150 for every other class on top of that. And in every member state of European Union, it’s 250 euros for the first class, so it’s cheaper than in the whole European Union. In general, these costs are not as high given that most of the applicants are legal person’s company.
15:00 For most companies, this is not a high cost to incur. The difficulty is not as much about how to raise funds for a trademark but more how to protect your brand. How to make sure that you are distinctive enough. How to make sure that you can defend yourself in the process once other companies, potentially, have objections toward your trademark. How can you demonstrate that you trade under a certain brand already and that your brand is indeed novel?
15:24 Today, it’s already hard and I think that in the coming years, it will be even harder because the space is getting more and more dense. Even though it’s hard to register a trademark today, I would strongly advise you to try. because the farther it gets, the harder it will be.
15:42 And now about the elephant in the room. What happened to Welcome Solutions and then Odyssey Careers? And why Ontology of Value is Ontology of Value today? Earlier this year, I applied for a trademark for Welcome Solutions, which is what my company was named from the beginning. And then in the process, it turned out that there is another entity based in another member state of the European Union, which has protection for company name that is not the same as my company name, but it partially overlaps.
16:11 And since the range of products and services is the same, the other party had claims for protection for that name. That’s why the other party objected the trademark application and we found a compromise. ‘I will find another name for the company.’ I, of course, didn’t want to cause any trouble. When I was first starting a company two years ago, I didn’t really think about international reach. I didn’t really think about, ‘Hey, is there any company anywhere in the European Union which has any name, in any form, similar to my name?
16:45 It didn’t really cross my mind. Because when you first start, especially with your first business, you will think about, ‘Hey, can I register the name I like? Is there anyone else who is already registered in my office in my maternal country?’ You don’t really think too much about the future. You don’t think about worldwide reach of your activity. Back then, I didn’t really give it a thought. and I think even if I did, I’m not sure if I would even discover that there is any potential conflict.
17:14 Because at the end of the day, it’s also a matter of interpretation whether or not you have a potential conflict of interest or not. But anyways, the company was very nice, I don’t have any bad feelings about it; no bad blood. Their lawyer was extremely nice and we found a compromise pretty quickly. I started looking for another name. And I first thought about Odyssey Careers, careers because I work on career advisory on the job market.
17:40 But also, Odyssey because I felt that this myth of Odyssey and Odysseus is a great metaphor of life; professional life in particular. But unfortunately, research in collaboration with a patent office that helps me with intellectual property right now, quickly revealed that there are so many companies using the term Odyssey or it’s synonym or some other like translations of the word. It would also probably be hard to protect and I didn’t want to fall into the same trouble again. That’s why I started looking for another name.
18:13 And in the end, we settled on Ontology of Value, which I think is a really nice name. Because now after two years, I have a better picture of what I want to do in this company. Indeed, I want to help professionals build value in the job market as personal development. And I want to understand better where value is, and how people value things. And also, what is value in general? Why certain products or certain projects gaining value? Why they are perceived as valuable? How an economy works and where the value in the market is? What are the sources of values today? What will the future look like?
18:50 And I think it’s a fascinating subject. I think in the job markets and in economy, money only follows value. Value is the real underlying currency and money always follows value and reflects value. Its just a shadow of value, which often comes with later. Ontology is also a term taken from philosophy. It means a nature of something. In fact, this company’s is named now ‘the nature of value’, and I love it.
19:19 I think it’s perfectly describes what my scope of interest is. As I’ve always been into sociology. I’ve always been into economy even though I studied psychology and neuroscience, but my passions were always circulating around economy and the job market as well. I think this word describes my interest and scope of the company, and the mission of the company. Okay, so this is my brief, my short lecture, about intellectual property.
19:48 If you’re thinking of any brand, or if you have a friend who is now starting a company or has a fresh company, please share this material with them because it’s very important today to protect your brand for your business development strategy. And I can tell you, if you don’t do it and at some point, you have to change your branding and company name. It’s a lot of hassle, it takes a lot of time. And you will lose a lot of clients and you will lose a lot of recognition.
20:15 You will have to start over with your website, with your SEO, with your presence online. It’s a major loss. That’s why it’s very extremely important for your business development strategy to protect your intellectual property and protect your brand from the first day. Please share with your friends who might potentially need this material. Don’t forget to protect your baby, your company and your brand; and take care. And if you would like to learn more about the job market a little bit about business development and professional development, but also opportunities in the job market and all kinds of other information that might help you build your professional life.
20:51 Then please subscribe to the channel and I’m open for discussion. If you have any questions about intellectual property and especially trademarks, please let me know below. And if you have any stories like this, please share below. Let’s suffer together and take care guys, see you next time.