In recent years, companies like LegalZoom have started to change the legal industry by offering “do-it-yourself” legal services. But according to LegalZoom’s own advertisements, they are not a law firm. And even though they admit that they are not a law firm, they claim to be able to assist you like an attorney would, while offering their services at a lower price. Of course as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. But what are people paying for when they choose to use a service like LegalZoom?
Well, here is the most important thing that they are not getting: one-on-one time speaking with an experienced attorney. These companies saw that individuals and businesses made their trademark filings by either hiring an attorney or going through the process themselves without any assistance. They wanted to create a middle ground that is cheaper than the cost of hiring an attorney. But while LegalZoom may be cheaper than an attorney, they do not add significant value over just attempting the trademark registration process by yourself. So, if you’re choosing between doing the work yourself and paying to hire one of these companies, I would say that you may as well try doing it yourself.
Why Hire An Attorney Instead of LegalZoom?
So what makes an attorney so superior to LegalZoom when it comes to handling your trademark matters? There are several things to consider here:
1. Can You Even Register Your Trademark?
As I’ve stated in previous posts, not all trademarks are eligible for registration. Marks that are generic can never be registered. And descriptive marks cannot be registered on the Principal Register without a showing of acquired distinctiveness. While a trademark attorney can usually tell you if your mark is likely to be refused registration for one of these reasons during a free consultation, LegalZoom will let you fill out the forms and pay for your application which will eventually be rejected. Was it a cost savings for you to file an application that never had a chance of being registered?
2. Get a Load of These Search Results
LegalZoom’s search services provide you with a lot of potential conflicts to consider when you pay them to do a trademark search. That’s an incredibly generous way of saying that they provide you with hundreds or even thousands of pages of search results. But what good does having hundreds of search result pages actually do you? Are you going to sort through those yourself, looking for marks that conflict with your own? This leads me to my next point…
3. Opinions vs. Results
While LegalZoom’s trademark search results might provide you with months of incredibly boring reading material, an experienced trademark attorney will provide you with an opinion. The search reports I provide will let you know whether I think there are pending applications or existing registrations that could prevent you from registering your trademark. I will cite those in my report so that you can see them, as well. So you will still get your results, but only ones that I think are relevant based on my legal opinion. LegalZoom can’t provide you with such an opinion. Remember, they are not a law firm.
4. Dotting “i”s and Crossing “t”s
When using LegalZoom to file your trademark application, you are given a series of online forms to fill out. These forms are very similar to the trademark application that you would file directly with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This is why I said earlier that you might want to just complete and file the application yourself. Save yourself the cost of having LegalZoom completing the same form with the same information. However, by choosing one of these options over hiring an attorney, you may not give complete and accurate information. A trademark attorney will ask you the right questions to make sure and avoid inaccuracies that could later make your trademark registration subject to cancellation.
5. Staying the Course
As you should know from my overview of the trademark registration process, filing your application is just the beginning. After that, you may receive office actions, your application might be opposed, you might have to file a Statement of Use… There are many things that can happen. Each response has its own deadline to consider, as well. Most trademark attorneys that you hire (including myself) do not abandon you after the filing of your application. A trademark attorney will walk you through the process. They will send you reminders so that you do not miss deadlines. And they will explain all of your options to you when/if there is a problem. If you’re expecting this kind of guidance from a DIY service, then you will be very disappointed with the result.
6. No Legal Fees Without Representation
While LegalZoom claims to be your “one stop shop” for trademarks, that is simply not true. There are services that they cannot provide to you because they are a law firm. If your application is opposed, they cannot represent you in the opposition. If your registration faces a petition for cancellation, they cannot represent you there, either. And they cannot represent you in trademark infringement matters. So there are clearly some very important instances in which these DIY services will not be able to assist you.
The choice between hiring a do-it-yourself trademark service like LegalZoom and a trademark attorney is not really a choice at all. An attorney is a person that will give you legal guidance and that you can form a professional relationship with. These services try to give the appearance that they are doing the same thing at a lower price. However, if you want to go the do-it-yourself route, you might as well actually just do it yourself, because these services do not add significant value to what you can do yourself with a little research.
Are You Choosing Between a Trademark Attorney or a DIY Service Like LegalZoom?
Regardless of whether you plan on using one of these services, consider giving me a call to discuss your trademark matter. I provide a free initial consultation, and if you decide that you’re still set on a DIY service, at least you can proceed with the information that you learned from our conversation. I would be happy to speak with you, so please call me at (314) 479-3668, email me at email@example.com, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today.