Are You Protecting Your Brand? — The Importance of Being Trademarked

Along with the millions of other steps a startup must consider, registering for a federal trademark is of utmost importance. Failing to do so can result in a few disastrous (and expensive!) scenario’s such as: someone stealing your brand name, a trademark infringement lawsuit or being forced to change your businesses name after the business is already established. No one wants to deal with a suit or losing business because you have to recreate your brand.

Here are a few tips on how to obtain a federal trademark and why it should be at the top of your to-do list:

  • First things first: Get a lawyer. Don’t navigate this yourself. Make sure your lawyer does a thorough state, federal and common law search. Incomplete searches are a major reason most applications are rejected by the U.S. Government. Your business attorney will most likely be able to refer you to a trademark attorney or use the American Bar Association’s search to locate one.
  • Choose a name that can be protected. Tungsten Branding recommends using this scale to identify the types of trademarks and the levels of protection they can obtain:
    • Generic – not subject to trademark protection
    • Descriptive (describes the goods/services as opposed to merely stating what they are) – protectable as a trademark only after acquiring “secondary meaning” (recognition) in the relevant marketplace
    • Suggestive (slightly more cerebral than descriptive, but still identifies the goods/services on its face—think Facebook®) – protectable
    • Arbitrary (think Apple® for computers) – protectable, and subject to a greater scope of protection than suggestive marks
    • Fanciful (made up words, think Exxon®) – afforded the greatest scope of protection
  • Don’t be fooled. The trademark process can be lengthy, frustrating and cost some dough. Be prepared that maybe your first choice won’t be accepted. It’s widely recommended to come up with a list of around 50 names you’re willing to run through the search process. Also note that application fees are non-refundable. An additional reason why hiring a lawyer is a good idea before applying.
  • Be prepared to wait. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. You will receive a response within 6 months of filing.
  • Being trademarked is not a once and for all deal. You must maintain your patent or it will expire. Don’t do all that work for nothing.
  • It’s worth it. Receiving a trademark protects intangible property and can be very useful if you ever want to see your biz or attract investors. A trademark can be bought, sold or licensed just like any other form of property (think: MLB, NFL, NBA, etc.).

As you already know or are learning, doing the grunt work up front to protect you and your company is always worth the extra time and energy and much better than putting out fires later. But anything worth doing is worth doing well as the saying goes, right?

7 Things to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Biz

Sure, you just might have a concept for the next multi-million dollar (or more!) business or it could just be a big time flop. I’m all for chasing your dreams and having an entrepreneurial spirit but being naive and ignorant can quickly make that dream become a nightmare.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in the first quarter of 2014, 382,000 small businesses were launched and another 364,000 closed during the same time. About half of all new establishments close shop within five years and about one-third survive 10 years or more.

Before pouring your life-savings or borrowing lots of Benjamin’s on the idea, it’s best to put it up against some rigorous testing. Here are a few questions to help you figure out if that business idea has a green light or break lights:

  • Know Your Customer- Who’s your audience? Who do you want to sell to? “When I hear a business pitch that says ‘our target customer is every adult in America,’ or the like, I know trouble is ahead. Your customer will never be everyone. Recognizing exactly who you want to target is hard work, so go beyond just knowing your customer; understand what makes them tic and how your service can best serve that need,” says Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy.
  • What Are You Replacing?Whatever your idea is, someone out there is buying something else in its place. Ask yourself what makes your product compelling enough to replace what’s already in the marketplace. This doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to products that have a similar purpose as yours,” says Jim Pulcrano, Executive Director of IMD.
  • Convince People- To join your startup that is. To have a successful biz you must be good at convincing others why they should quit their job and join in your endeavor.Working for a startup is like entering a marriage. Employees will spend a lot of time with each other as they work together to bring a specific product to market, so the decision to come on board has to be about more than money. However, financial considerations matter when you’re asking an accomplished expert to leave an established company for a startup. For that reason, demonstrating the potential for future success is critical,” says Nir Polak, CEO and Co-founder of Exabeam.
  • Know Yourself- Why do you really want to start this business? Can you work with little or no pay for a while? Are you resilient? Is this your true passion? “If you are looking for a fast way to get rich or a way to look impressive to your peers, it’s unlikely you’ll find success at the end of your journey,” said Irving.
  • Are you an inventor or entrepreneur? A great product or idea doesn’t necessarily mean a great business. “Too many times, an ‘inventor’ type stays focused on the product, the prototype, the patent, etc., ignoring the other aspects of developing a business. Just because you develop a great product doesn’t mean that customers will instantly flock to your door. Entrepreneurs get that,” says Nellie Akalp of Mashable.
  • Will It Turn a Profit & Be Sustainable? I would say this is the most important question. Sure there are a zillion other factors that play into a successful business, but at the end of the day it’s about the bottom line. “The No. 1 killer of startups is a lack of cash flow. If your business doesn’t turn a profit, you will be unable to make the positive impact you’re striving for. It’s rare for a startup to make money immediately, so you need to make sure that you have enough saved, or that you have another income stream that can support you. If your favorite idea will take longer to turn a profit, it might be better to focus on one of your smaller ideas first. Afterward, you can use the smaller business’s success — and profit — as a springboard to launch a bigger project,” says Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group.
  • Is there a plan B?  If things do not go according to plan is there a fall-back strategy for me personally and for the business?  Does my family support me in this endeavor?

Dream big and don’t be afraid to go after it. But also use caution and intense planning before taking the plunge. The old saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail” still rings true.

Meet the Team: Andres Gonzalez, Senior Consultant

Andy is a Colombia-native based in Washington, D.C. by way of Miami. He joined Ellos Global in 2013 as a Senior Consultant and has worked in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Infrastructure Protection division ever since. Before joining Ellos Global, Andy worked in over 7 political campaigns and staffed 3 different elected officials. His work in congressional politics led him to the Capitol in 2008, when he became Communications Director for a Florida House member. Prior to working in politics and consulting, Andy was a commercial real estate professional in Florida, with several ongoing projects throughout southern states. He holds a double B.A. in Political Science and History from Wheaton College in Chicago.

Hometown: I feel at home in Washington, Miami, and Cali, Colombia.

Superpower: I can fly. But only about five inches off the ground, and only as fast as I can walk.

Decade I’d Time Warp Back To: 1890’s. I would’ve loved to have been at the Chicago World Fair when they introduced electricity and everyone wet their pants.

A Perfect Day for Me Would Include: No work, a nap, a drink, and no fewer than 3 people I love.

Favorite Quote: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” –Kurt Vonnegut

Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Been Given: Care about your work. You derive more self-esteem from your labor than you give it credit.

Ellos Global Receives SBA 8(a) Certification

We are pleased to announce that Ellos Global has received the prestigious 8(a) certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

“After an extensive government evaluation process, we are thrilled to receive our 8(a) certification,” said Olga Argüello, Managing Director. “This certification provides us more visibility and opportunities in the government contracting space. This is a huge stepping stone for us and will increase Ellos Global’s footprint. It will also help our ability to compete and win contracts. This hopefully means more business and therefore more jobs that we’re able to bring to the community.”

The SBA 8(a) program was designed to provide business development assistance to companies owned and managed by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. In order to be certified by the SBA, an applicant firm must: be a small business; be unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are of good character, be citizens of the United States; and must demonstrate potential for success. The certification gives Ellos Global the opportunity to bid on contracts that are specifically set aside for SBA 8(a) program participants.

Established in 2012, Ellos Global, is an 8(a) certified, Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (ED/WOSB) with Top Secret cleared personnel, that provides clients with customized business strategies, solutions, and results.  The consulting team includes seasoned professionals with past experience in The White House, U.S. Congress and Fortune 500 corporations. Our team includes experts in business transformation, organization change management, event and meeting management, and public affairs. 

Meet the Team: Wendy Knox, Director of Communications

Wendy is based in Washington D.C. and is Director of Communications for Ellos Global. She oversees everything from social media to developing and executing strategic communication objectives for clients. Wendy is a veteran U.S. Congressional staffer serving as press secretary for a mid-western congressman and on the House Small Business Committee. Prior to landing on Capitol Hill, she worked as a reporter for a media non-profit. Wendy holds an M.B.A and a B.S. in journalism from Liberty University.

Hometown: Gainesville, FL

Superpower: Wishing I could fly! Who wouldn’t say flying??

Decade I Would Time Warp Back To: Definitely the late 50’s early 60’s (does that count?). I picture my life being something like a beach party movie, i.e. Gidget and Annette Funicello.

A Perfect Day for Me Would Include: Jetting off to a tropical beach location with my hubby, eating lots of Mexican food, and then watching either the University of Florida or Liberty University win the NCAAF National Championship.

Favorite Quote: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” –Francis Chan

Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Been Given: Always be a student, always keep learning. Don’t just learn your job- learn other people’s jobs as well. Make yourself invaluable.