There are so many faux-legal trademark services out there that it is hard to keep count. In the past, I have written about LegalZoom and Trademarkia. In this post, I want to talk about Trademark Engine. Trademark Engine claims to simplify the process for trademark registration. But instead, they will charge you for services that you can actually do yourself. And of course, they will do so without providing you with the legal advice that you really need. Basically, this screenshot tells you everything you need to know about the quality of Trademark Engine’s services:
Trademark Engine Search Services
As you can see from the example above, Trademark Engine’s search is not great to say the least. They offer both a free trademark search (as I used above) and some “comprehensive” searches. The free trademark search feature is terribly flawed. First, like in the example above, it misses obvious conflicts! But there are other problems, too. When I did a search for Burger King, several familiar results appeared:
However, as you can see, next to each hit was a large bright orange/red button for filing an application! If it’s a potential conflict, why would you make it so easy to apply?? I’m sure that there have been thousands of users that mistakenly filed, thinking this meant that they should apply to register their name. This free search feature is a poor replacement for the TESS search function on the Trademark Office’s website (which is also free!).
Their “comprehensive” search services also carry the same problems that you find with LegalZoom and Trademarkia. First, the search will only look for potential conflicts with other marks, not potential problems with the mark itself. It does not tell you if your mark might be refused registration for one of many other reasons, including: genericness, descriptiveness, primarily a surname, geographically descriptive, deceptively misdescriptive… and the list goes on and on.
Next, Trademark Engine will only provide you with a list of conflicts, not a legal opinion. As I have explained before, you want to hire an attorney that will give you a legal opinion on the availability of your mark. Not hundreds or thousands of pages of potential conflicts that you then have to sort through yourself, and judge whether you think any of them are actual problems for you. Their search services do not provide you with any value, and cost about the same as many attorneys would charge!
The $99 Trademark Application
Trademark Engine’s big marketing tool is the $99 trademark application. That number does not include the government filing fee of course, which is generally $275. But that $99 rate looks much better than calling it a $374 total cost, right? Well, looks can be deceiving. The real question you should be asking yourself is “what am I getting for that $99?”
If I were to charge you $99 for services, I would call that a “legal fee,” because I would be providing you with legal services. Trademark Engine doesn’t call this fee anything, because it’s not a legal fee. You could also interpret that to mean that they aren’t actually adding value to the process, and you would be right. Instead, you are paying $99 for an online form that you can fill out. That information will go into your trademark application. But that’s also exactly what you get if you fill out your application directly on the Trademark Office’s website.
The application on USPTO.gov will ask you the same questions. It’s actually more helpful because it details many requirements that you won’t get through the Trademark Engine form. If you’re not going to get legal advice and assistance either way, why pay $99 to fill out an online form that you could have completed yourself?
Dealing With Office Actions
Most applications will receive a response from the Trademark Office, called an office action. The office action may raise one of many issues, which will need to be addressed before your application can proceed. Well, if you’ve paid $99 to Trademark Engine for your application, this response would have to be covered, right?
Well at this point, Trademark Engine is beyond the scope of what they can help you with. Therefore, they advise that “you may want to hire counsel at that point.” Gee, thanks! Also, many office actions raise administrative issues that are relatively easy to address. But Trademark Engine isn’t going to help you with those, either. So when those come up, as they do in most cases, you’ll have the options of trying to navigate those issues yourself or hiring an attorney. At that point, how good of a value was Trademark Engine really?
Overall, like other “do it yourself” online trademark services, Trademark Engine does not provide you with any additional service that you cannot do yourself. Their offerings get you to pay for things you could have done on your own for free. And that is why I would say you are better off doing things yourself than paying a middle-man service like them.
On the other hand, paying an attorney will provide you with real value. An experienced trademark attorney will prepare and file your trademark application for you. When they do that, they will ask the right questions to make sure that your registration isn’t subject to cancellation like it may be if you file yourself or through Trademark Engine. They can also help you respond to office actions. Some attorneys include such responses in the initial application fees. They can also answer your legal questions, which no one at Trademark Engine is licensed to do. Trying to save money on a service like this may end up costing you more initially, and certainly risks far bigger costs in the long run.
Want to Skip These Types of Headaches?
Investing in your brand is an important step for your business. You want to make sure that it is handled with care, unlike my search results saying that NIKE is available for trademark registration. When you are ready to work with a real professional, please call me at (314) 479-3668, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today. I look forward to speaking with you.