What was the patent process like? Are patents necessary? What’s the difference between a trademark and a patent? What’s a copyright? Trademark?
All businesses need protective motes around them in order to secure a competitive advantage. Technology, Branding and Intellectual Property are the three most common ways these motes are built. For a consumer product good, we knew that branding and IP were the path to our deepest mote, but branding could only occur once we were secure enough in our market position.
We believed we needed a patent to protect our idea. Unfortunately, we did not yet have the idea fully hashed out. Because this paradox is quite common among entrepreneurs, the US Patent and Trademark Office issues something called a Provisional Patent. Obviously, seek the advice of an Intellectual Property (IP) attorney before deciding on the right course of action for you; but in layman's terms a provisional patent is a placeholder for those seeking the full protective rights that design or utility patents provide.
We filed a provisional patent when we had the idea for the heel protector and used the most basic designs to illustrate our concept. Once we had the final design for the product, we filed a design and a utility patent. The design patent secures the design can’t be copied and the utility protects the use idea from being copied.
Fortunately Solemates was awarded both levels of protection.
Being sold on Amazon, having IP protection is of tremendous value. We are able to immediately suppress rogue sellers from launching products if not prevent them from trying to create a listing at all. In the early days of Amazon, the protective rights were less meaningful as there was not a process in place to protect brands. Tremendous investment has been made in those areas and we are very comfortable being on the platform and knowing our IP is safe.
Third party website may occasionally try to violate our patents but we see fewer and fewer attempts. A cease and desist letter is enough to squash most offenders.
Copyrights and trademarks are used on the written marks that identify brand and product names. The ™ notation indicates a trademark application has been filed by the © notation indicates that the designation has been rewarded. Securing the name Solemates © was challenging because the term is already “owned” by a number of sources and to some extent has slang use in place. With clever, problem solving oriented legal advice, we were able to secure Solemates © for shoe care which was a big win for our brand.
Owning the copyrighted term has allowed the brand the freedom to grow in a number of areas and continue to innovate in the shoe/foot care space and grooming.
Understanding the patent and trademark process is a valuable exercise for any brand that seeks to own the space in which they are operating. We all need protective motes around our businesses in order to dominate the spaces in which we operate. Whether the motes are created with technology, branding or intellectual property, they exist to help strengthen the fortress out of which the brand can grow and proliferate.