Curious about how to protect your business in this dog-eat-dog digital world of ours? Want to know when to file a trademark, what to do if someone copies you, and how to navigate the world of legal protection? Look no further—in today’s Expert Interview with Chandler J. Esq., we’re covering all the good stuff, so you can cover your business’s you-know-what.
In case you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Chandler’s signature red, bold, beautiful self on Instagram, allow me to give you a quick rundown: she’s known for saying what everyone else is too afraid to, showing up as her most authentic self, and being the most badass lawyer in the digital space.
It’s practically her tagline at this point.
So, when I knew it was time for me to take the next step in protecting my business, Chandler was immediately my next thought. I didn’t even consider turning to another attorney—Chandler spoke my language: the no-bullshit, all-protected, I-do-what-I-want vibe was exactly what resonated with me. I knew she would give me all of the info straight, and would do anything to help me protect my business.
…which is why I’m confident that she’s the perfect person to answer all of your questions about legally protecting your brand. Let’s get into it!
A: I originally went into law school with the intention of going into family law. I was bound and determined to advocate for fathers’ rights, until I realized how messy family law can get. I’m too close to it all, and when you work in family law, you have to completely remove yourself from each situation.
So, I decided that it wasn’t the best path, and I moved onto criminal defense. I loved it, and actually worked in that realm for a while, but it wasn’t the best fit for me. I was in court 24/7, which is what I’d initially thought I’d wanted—I’d kill it as a litigator—but bouncing from court room to court room all day every day didn’t align with the bigger picture of what I wanted for my life.
I have no interest in being tied to one location; I want to be able to travel, and do the fun stuff, and working in Intellectual Property and helping business owners with trademarks and contracts allows me to do that.
A: Like all good things, I simply fell into it, loved it, and went for it. I noticed that there was a legal-sized gap in the online space. Business owners with brick-and-mortar stores know they need attorneys, but digital businesses? They weren’t yet convinced.
It’s hard to know what applies and what doesn’t when it comes to legal services as a digital brand, but the fact of the matter is that your intellectual property is even more important in the online space because it gets shared so much, and there’s so much accessibility to it.
Essentially, I wanted to swoop in and help those online businesses get the legal protection that they deserve, because I know how wrong things can go when you don’t have actual ownership of the necessary elements of your business.
BTL Note: more on that later.
A: Definitely the accessibility. The accessibility to me is 10x greater than it would be if I worked at a ‘traditional’ law firm. I hate the stereotypical characteristics of lawyers and law firms, because they’re too stiff and intimidating.
No one wants to drive to a boring office and waste 30 minutes in a stale waiting room just to be able to ask their attorney one simple question. I’m not in the business of wasting anyone’s time. Operating a virtual firm is fast, and easy, and allows me to help people from all over the world.
I’m able to meet people where they’re at, and pivot to accommodate their needs. There’s nothing more frustrating than working with a hard-to-reach attorney who you can never seem to get in contact with, and I never want to be that person.
BTL Note: I would like to make it known that as a former legal secretary, I can vouch for how revolutionary Chandler’s firm is. The amount of times I’ve been screamed at over the phone because the attorneys I worked for wouldn’t return a client call is criminal. Just the thought of a traditional law firm makes me cringe now—and I have horror stories for days. Bless Chandler’s soul for being an actually available attorney.
A: The only surefire way to be certain that your contract is sufficient is to purchase attorney-drafted contract. That way, you won’t have to question whether anything is missing, or worry that you’re not completely protected.
Contracts are all about setting your terms, policies, boundaries, and expectations in a clear, detailed manner. Nothing should be up for interpretation, and there should be no room for confusion. What you sign becomes law, so it has to be as accurate as possible.
Make sure your scope of services is outlined exactly, and don’t forget to ensure that your contract outlines the details of important things like payment, ownership, cancellation or termination policies, etc.
A: If you purchase a template from an attorney online, you are good for your immediate purposes. Attorney-drafted templates are a great starting place.
However, if you’re starting to get into million-dollar-company territory, I’d recommend revisiting the idea of having an attorney draft one for you (or review the contract you’re currently using). Everything becomes more complicated when your business grows, and you want to be both prepared and protected for that.
BTL Note: If you’re in the market for a new contract, click here to purchase Chandler’s! She also has bundles available for all sorts of niches that include other types of legal documents you may need, such as Digital Terms of Purchase, or Independent Contractor Agreements, Nondisclosure Agreements… you get the picture.
A: According to the USPTO, a trademark is any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of these things that identifies your goods or services. Trademarks give you ownership, and allow you to legally protect yourself against anyone who tries to use your mark, or claim ownership of something that is yours.
A: When you’re ready to have complete and sole ownership of your brand is when you should begin the trademark process. There’s no point in building and growing a brand you don’t own, so I recommend getting started sooner than later.
However, make sure that you’re confident in the name of the brand you’re building. You wouldn’t want to invest in trademarking something you’re not committed to—so ensure that you feel solid in your brand name (or course name, or product name) before you file for your trademark.
A: Anything you are tied to—and want to keep—should be trademarked. This includes your brand name, the name of your course, your podcast name, your slogan, signature methods that you use… anything that would be detrimental to your business if you had to change it.
A: Your business name should always come first. Other names (like courses or products) can be relatively easy to change, but changing your brand name and having to start over from scratch would be a real pain in the ass.
Next on the priority list: any new offer that you’re about to launch, especially if you’ve worked extra hard on it and have a feeling the copy cats may come out to play. Even if the trademarking process isn’t complete by the time of your launch, if you have a trademark application filed, you’re sufficiently protected for the time being.
Finally, select whichever products are the most important to you out of all of your offerings, and get the names of those things trademarked.
A: A word mark is exactly what it sounds like: the name itself; the words. A design mark is your logo. I always recommend filing for the word mark, because logos can (and usually are) always updated. So, unless you’re, say, Target or Walmart, don’t worry about the design mark too much.
A: It depends, and you’ll need to strategically consider your options. If someone is copying you, and you can send them a Cease and Desist letter without having a trademark, it could put them on notice and inadvertently warn them to run to the USPTO and file one themselves.
When it comes to trademark filings, the rule of thumb is technically ‘first to file’ – meaning that whoever files the trademark first gets that ownership. However, you could oppose it under the ‘date of first use’ rules, if you used the mark before that person, but then you’ll end up in a long and hard legal battle that may or may not come out in your favor.
So, I’d recommend beginning with emailing them and asking them to stop. In my course, Asset Protection Program, I offer a ‘copycat bonus’ for this exact reason; it has an exact script of what to say and what to do.
But before you get it twisted, ask yourself this: are they copying my brand, or my content? Because there’s a difference. Your content is protected by copyright and your brand is protected by your trademark.
You automatically have a copyright on whatever you create, however you can’t actually enforce anything unless you have it registered (which you can do here).
A: You can, but you don’t have to! In my course, Asset Protection Program, I’m teaching you everything I know about filing trademarks—the what, when, why, how, and more—so you can feel confident in filing on your own.
BTL Note: I’ve paid thousands of dollars to file trademarks for BTL. More specifically, I’ve paid Chandler thousands of dollars to file trademarks for BTL. And you can still catch me inside the Asset Protection Program, because I’ve got a couple more TMs up my sleeve and I want to know what Chandler knows. This course is such an affordable alternative to hiring someone to do the filings for you—like, quite literally thousands of dollars LESS than what I paid—AND you get access to basically Chandler’s whole brain. Consider this my validation for you that yes, you should sign up.
A: It depends on which industry you’re in and how IP is handled, but typically a traditional IP clause in your contract should be enough to protect you. However, you’ll want to review the language in your contract about licensing, ownership, fees, etc. Make sure that if you want to retain ownership to something, your contract states it.
A: Be proactive, rather than reactive. This is why I always say that I’m in the business of preventing problems. When shit hits the fan, there are problems that I can’t fix, and even if I can, it’s going to cost a lottt more money. I recommend thinking about what your goals are, and all of the elements of your brand you’d like to own, and planning ahead to make sure those things are protected.
If your contract is solid, your trademarks are filed, your copyrights are registered, and your LLC is covering your financial liability… you should be set.
(Unless, of course, your specific business requires certain licensing or other protections—I’d need to do a deeper analysis to be certain whether your business is specifically sufficiently protected—the above is a general rule, and applies to most businesses.)
A: An LLC allows you to transform from Sole Proprietor—aka person who woke up this morning and decided “hmm, I think I’ll be a business owner today”—to a protected business. LLC stands for Limited Liability Company, because that’s exactly what it does for you: limits your liability.
When you have your LLC, you are an established business entity with a legal shield that no one can penetrate. Your house, your car, your personal finances; all of that is protected once you have an LLC. However, as a Sole Proprietor, if someone sues you – all of your assets can be involved in that suit, and you stand to potentially lose everything you own.
So, unless you want all of your personal assets to be up for grabs, yeah, I’d say you need one.
A: Don’t make decisions based on how small you feel now. Make sure you’re always being proactive, and doing what you can to protect yourself and your business.
Thinking about filing a trademark now? Here’s how you Chandler can help you:
Enroll in the Asset Protection Program. This program is Chandler’s signature course for brands who want to become brand owners. Learn how to file your own trademark and create your own personal legal shield against all the copycats—without spending thousands and thousands of dollars on an attorney to do it for you.
Reach out to schedule a consultation with Chandler. If you’re not the DIY type or you have a more specific legal question, you can click here to schedule an appointment to chat with Chandler about your legal needs.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post! To follow along with Chandler on Instagram, click here. And don’t forget to SAVE this blog for later on Pinterest!
*Some links in this post may be affiliate links, and I may make a small commission should you decide to click and purchase from them. I do not recommend any services or products I do not use or enjoy.
If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hi! I’m Sara Noel—website copywriter and marketing mentor for creatives, copywriters, and all-around cool people. If you like my content and you want even more BTL in your life, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
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