Does your law office advertise a slogan or vanity phone number on your website or advertising? If you haven’t trademarked it, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
I once put “No Fee Guarantee” on my law firm website. Sometime later, I received a letter advising that it was trademarked and that I would have to remove it. Since it was only on my website and not on billboards and TV advertising, it was easy to remove.
Someone who isn’t a lawyer contacted me about a vanity phone number for lawyers he has. He filed a trademark registration, put up a website directory for lawyers and received a letter from a lawyer threatening to sue him. The lawyer has the 800 version of the vanity phone number but the lawyer never trademarked it and never even claimed a common law trademark by displaying ™ on his website.
I filed a trademark registration for my vanity phone number 1-800-HURT-911 many years ago soon after I got it. I was able to trademark HURT-911® which is much more powerful than trademarking the entire phone number with the area code.
I was able to trademark my vanity number without the area code because HURT-911 is not generic but if your vanity phone number is generic you can trademark it together with the area code such as 1-800-ATTORNEYS. Trademarking a vanity phone number in one area code will protect your vanity phone number if someone tries to use it with another area code.
Fortunately, I trademarked my vanity phone number as soon as I did because recently someone with another similar phone number, widely advertised for lawyers, sued one of my licensees claiming trademark infringement. My trademark predated the competitor’s trademark and his lawsuit was dismissed.
A Reason to Trademark Your Slogan or Vanity Phone Number You May Not Have Thought of
People and companies usually register a trademark to stop others from using the mark. More importantly, even if you’re not concerned about someone else using a similar vanity phone number, slogan or design, a trademark will protect your right to continue using your mark when someone else tries to stop you.
Several years ago, I created a cause marketing campaign for motorcycle accident cases and needed a slogan. Every slogan I could think of was already trademarked. It took a while but I finally came up with “BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®”.
I wasn’t so much concerned about stopping other people from using it but I didn’t want anyone to stop me from using it. I immediately trademarked it in the three classes in which I needed to protect it.
Once you register a trademark, you can choose either to stop other people from using it or simply give them a license to use the mark.