What's in a Name: Trademarking your Equine Business

My hometown seems to have added a number of equine facilities recently, and I was happy to read an article (here) in one of the local papers of a hunter/jumper barn named Jump for Joy Stables.

I quickly ran an Internet search for the stable, by name.  That search resulted in 239,000 results, though none on the first page were relevant to the stable in my hometown.

I added the word "California" onto the search, with a narrowed result of 99,300.

I then added the specific hometown, and finally found a closer result of 89,300 with only 3 of the links on the first page relevant to the stable.

Through Google searches I found a "Jump for Joy Training Center," "Jump for Joy Equestrian Center," and a "Jump for Joy" organization specializing in kangaroos.

Later searching eventually found more information on the particular barn, but it made me consider how many barns named Jump for Joy there must be: it is a catchy name, with positive connotation, and directly results to hunter/jumper barns.  However, due to the seemingly high popularity of the name, it does raise a Trademark flag for me.

Jump for Joy could be a jump into trademark peril

Trademarks are words or symbols used in trade of goods to distinguish one's goods from the goods of others.  A service-mark is the same as a trademark, but used to distinguish services rather than goods.  In the hunter/jumper barn situation, service-marks are more likely to be relevant.

A trademark is valuable because it permits you to prevent others from selling the same type of good or service under the same or confusingly similar mark.  Therefore it is also important to protect your trademark, and not allow other companies to use the same or similar marks, because that can dilute your trademark and your accompanying service or good (make them less valuable)!

While it is advisable to register your trade or service mark, it is not necessary to register in order to gain a right to protect your mark.  A right to a trade or service mark arises when:

1. You are the first to use the mark: this is the main, and most important element of a trademark right!
(I took an entire law school class on what "use" of a mark exactly means, but I'll spare you those details at the present!)
2. You are claiming trademark protection in the geographic area that you use the mark (then state law applies, rather than Federal law).  For example, if you sell horse treats under the name "Horse-ios" only in California, then you likely only have the trademark protection in California.  But state laws can differ, and some states will extend trademark protection to other regions to prevent unfair competition.

I know we all love free things, so click here if you want to run a free search in the U.S. Patent and  Trademark Office to see if your business, or if your next creative idea, has a sufficiently creative name.  You can click on the registered names to see who trademarked the name, which state the person/ entity is in, and the type of good or service that is covered (if you're the type of person that likes the "inside scoop," this is way more fun than facebook!).

I ran a search for Jump for Joy, which has 23 registered trademarks (this includes foreign words with the same meaning, such as Saltos de Alegria, which is espaƱol for Jump for Joy).  Jump for Joy, I found, has an active (a mark is always considered "live" or "dead")  registration for children's entertainment services, for deodorizers, day care centers, for "alcoholic fruit cocktail drinks," for cosmetics, and for clothing.  

But there is no active registration for a Jump for Joy relevant to horses.  As mentioned above, you can still have a trademark without federal registration, but it may be more difficult for a third party to have notice of your mark.

There are so many fun, tricky situations with trademarks (can the color blue of the Tiffany box be trademarked? What happens if someone registers your mark that you were the first to use?  What must a third party do to find out about trademarks already in use?  What if someone uses your mark, but it is in a different service or good?), but I will close here by encouraging you to be as creative as possible in the name of your product or service, and to do a little (free!) research on names!