Low-cost trademark mills can't provide the guidance you need to build a defensible brand.

By Eric Adler

A trademark mill can slap together a trademark application for $99, but you’ll get what you pay for. They can copy/paste your info into an online trademark application form, file it, and then charge you $99 for the privilege. If that’s all you need, you can save the $99 by filling out the application yourself. The USPTO website is pretty bad, so I wrote a DIY explainer to help fill out the forms.

A trademark lawyer is a counselor, not a form-filler. You hire a trademark lawyer to provide guidance on the complexities of trademark law. For example, an experienced trademark lawyer can run a clearance search and explain what preexisting trademarks might block your proposed name. With that information, they can help you frame your product in a way that will reduce the risk of being blocked by a prior registration.

A trademark lawyer can anticipate reasons why your application will be rejected, and create an early strategy for overcoming the rejections. The two main reasons a trademark will be rejected are “descriptiveness” and “likelihood of confusion” with a prior registration. Both are complex legal tests, and involve substantial judgment calls. An experienced trademark lawyer can counsel you on these critical issues, but a copy/paste guy cannot: they don’t have the experience, and at $99 a pop, they can’t be bothered to properly analyze these difficult issues.

A good trademark registration will hold up in court, while a weak one will be quickly dismissed. A trademark lawyer with litigation experience can advise you on selecting a strong mark, but a trademark mill is simply looking to collect their $99 as fast as possible.

Moreover, each country has their own trademark laws. A good trademark lawyer can start to implement an worldwide trademark strategy early, and help you avoid international landmines.

Your brand is your most valuable asset. It’s how you advertise, how your customers recognize you, and how they recommend your business to their friends. If you are building a real brand, it’s worth investing a few thousand dollars in a real trademark lawyer to protect it. When you hire a trademark lawyer, you’re paying for the years of experience dealing with complex and subjective legal tests, and the guidance on securing a strong, valid, trademark registration and building a defensible brand.

If you are looking for an experienced trademark lawyer, it happens that I am such a person.