Do I Need a Trademark? w/ Michelle Murphy | Business on the Bright Side
Episode #37

Do I Need a Trademark? with Michelle Murphy

Show Notes:

Do you have a great business idea or name? You may be asking yourself, "Do I need a trademark?"

Michelle Murphy of Wilson Murphy Law and The CEO Legal Loft join us to discuss when and why you need a trademark for your big idea, and how to go about the trademark process. Listen in as she walks through a trademark search, a few legal steps to take when you're getting started, and how an attorney can help you get legal!

This episode of Business on the Bright Side was recorded as part of the January 2020 You 2.0 Challenge hosted by Bright Pages, a guided online journal for people who do. Try Bright Pages today and get your first month free with the code POD!

Time is a commodity, I don’t discount. - Michelle Murphy

Something that Made Michelle Want to Quit What She Does: She felt like she was talking to no one. (2:48)

What Kept Michelle Going: Staycations (6:02)

Michelle's Mission Statement: Make legal accessible and easy to understand. (7:47)

Tips to Getting Legal When Starting a Business (12:36)

1. Research your name and make sure it isn’t taken as a trademark, then trademark it.

2. Make sure you have terms & conditions and privacy policy up on your website (include CCPA).

3. Separate your bank accounts from business and personal.

Holding a Trademark Name (18:06)

Costs and Time Investment of a Trademark (18:42)

Links

Wilsonmurphylaw.com

theceolegalloft.com

instagram.com/thetrademarkattorney_

brightpages.com | Use code POD, for one month free!

Review the Transcript:

Jess Ekstrom:
I don't know about you, but my palms get super clammy whenever I start talking legal stuff like trademarks and patents and copyright and all of that just makes me want to run out the door. But our guest today, Michelle Murphy makes it a heck of a lot easier. So Michelle helps brands and people secure trademark registration and just really take all of the gray area around what legal things you should do with your business, because I know for me it's something that I know that I have to do, but I don't really want to do. But the other thing that Michelle does is, she realizes that the way that you set up your business and the trademarks and everything, is also about creating a legacy. So you can also take Michelle's create your legacy pathway on Bright Pages and you can use the code pod P-O-D, for one month free.

Jess Ekstrom:
So without further ado, let's welcome, Michelle Murphy. What's up, everybody it is Jess Ekstrom and welcome to Business on the Bright Side, the podcast where you can learn how to make a living and make a difference at the same time, life is short and so is my attention span. So let's get started. Hey Michelle, how's it going?

Michelle Murphy:
Hi, how are you? It's going well.

Jess Ekstrom:
Good. So Michelle's in Tampa, Florida. So any Florida peeps let us know in the comments, but Michelle and I connected on... I think we connected on Instagram, which is like a modern romance you know. It's crazy. If you would've told me, like back to the day that you're going to meet some of your best friends on Instagram, I'd be like, "You shouldn't meet strangers on the internet." Now, how else do you meet people? Honestly. Michelle really has a lot of strengths that are my weaknesses which is legal. And so Michelle, if you want to give us a little bit of background of you and what you do and then we'll get into it.

Michelle Murphy:
Sure. So first of all, my name is Michelle Murphy and I am the owner of Wilson Murphy Law. And it's just a boutique law firm focused on working with smaller businesses with their trademarks and copyrights, contracts and just how to run a small business legally. I opened in 2019 and I have just been going ever since. I was going to quit a few times along the way, but I just kept pushing and pushing and I'm here. I'm still at it helping businesses pretty much daily.

Jess Ekstrom:
If you don't mind sharing, what was any moments or reasons that you wanted to quit and then what kept you going?

Michelle Murphy:
So one big thing was, it just felt like I was talking to nobody. Putting all this content out and I just felt like I wasn't getting the traction that I wanted little did I know that social media is such a long game. Your first year, you're just putting out the content, you're probably not going to get as much traction as you might want, but if you continue going, people start to like you and trust what you're saying and start engaging with you. I'm two years in and I would just say nowish is how I've been getting consistent engagement from my Instagram.

Jess Ekstrom:
That's awesome. And speaking of your Instagram, one of my favorite quotes that you posted the other day and you guys go ahead and give Michelle a follow here is, time is a commodity I don't discount. I was like, "Oh, she is speaking to my soul." I am like a recovering people pleaser. And always just want to like show up for people and think that I can control the way people think about me. Did you ever watch Parks and Recreation?

Michelle Murphy:
Yes.

Jess Ekstrom:
Do you know the episode where Leslie Knope, someone said to her, "Yeah. I like her but she's not someone I would go bowling and get it or something." And then she hosts this bowling and beer thing. It's just focusing on this one guy to like her. And I'm like, "If I could sum up myself in one scene." This would be it. So I found myself giving away a lot of my time just because I wanted to show up for people. So what was this, where did this quote come from you? And was this something you've always been good at or something you had to learn?

Michelle Murphy:
So I don't even know where it came from. Honestly. I think I was talking to somebody about just our time and just working on weekends and just all that, like running a business and never... And it's really hard to separate your business from your personal life once you're the owner. And I was, I think I saw you know what? I know what it is. I saw a trademark attorney running discounts on her services and I was like, absolutely not. I did it once. I did that one time. And that was one time enough for me to be like, "No." You deserve everything that you're getting from the services that you're giving to somebody else.

Michelle Murphy:
I was like, "Yeah." You have to take care of yourself. And that's one thing that I'm really... That is my goal for 2021. Focusing on my self care, because I know from last year we talked about it before, business exploded and I guess I just did not have the systems in place that I thought I had in place. And I just found myself working constantly and not taking care of myself and I could feel the burnout by December.

Jess Ekstrom:
So what are some of those things that you are committing to doing? We actually talked about this the other day and the challenge of three actions you want to commit to that are more self-care focused. Are there anything that you're like, "I got to make time for this?"

Michelle Murphy:
So one thing that I'm doing and people are probably going to think I'm crazy, staycations. I'm going to a luxury hotel for a night, unplugging, watching TV, drinking champagne in my room. That is what I am committing to. And then just nighttime routine. I don't have a morning routine because I'm just not a morning person like that. Waking up is enough for me to be the morning routine.

Jess Ekstrom:
Checked on.

Michelle Murphy:
But at night I'm focusing on just little things. I'm showering at night, so I put it like a eucalyptus plant in my shower. So the aromas, the oils come off and then I spray fragrance on myself, just so you just get in this mood to go to bed. And wait in the room for like 20 minutes and lighting a candle and just relaxing.

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. Doing things that feel good.

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah.

Jess Ekstrom:
The staycation part is interesting. Y'all let me know if you guys have ever done any staycations, but one of the things that I want to do where... We live in an Airstream, but right now we're in our house for a little bit. And so our Airstream is parked across the street and I'm like, I wonder if I could rent this out, even just for people to experience living in an Airstream for like one night, but it's not in a fun place. It's literally in a parking lot beside a dumpster. And my husband was like, "We could just say like urban views." I'm like, "Yeah, that's not going to work."

Jess Ekstrom:
Okay. Yeah. Someone said, staycations have been the old lifesaver for them, which is awesome. I need to get on that board. So this week we're talking about mission statements and curious if you have a mission statement for your work or just for you personally.

Michelle Murphy:
So I would say my mission statement is to make legal accessible and easy to understand. I read some of these outreach statutes and I'll read books and I'll read just things that I need to keep up education-wise and I'm like, "What are you guys talking about?" Say what you mean and mean what you say, but say it in English. So I try my best to dumb everything down on anything that I put out there, any of my content, I try to use as many metaphors as possible because that's how I learn. Metaphors really make things click.

Michelle Murphy:
That's one of my biggest things. Just making legal, accessible to smaller businesses who just don't have the resources that may be Target has, or-

Jess Ekstrom:
Right. Even last year with the... And now the PPP how business loans are out again. But last year when it was happening, just figuring out if I qualify, how to submit, all of it, was a full-time job in itself. And so I think for a lot of entrepreneurs who want to focus on running their business and then also trying to understand the legalities of it, it's so hard to be able to simplify things. It's like, I know for someone like me is very appreciative.

Michelle Murphy:
Right. Yeah. And I mostly work with creatives because I was a dancer back in the day.

Jess Ekstrom:
We don't have that in common.

Michelle Murphy:
I danced for like-

Jess Ekstrom:
I wish I could dance.

Michelle Murphy:
15 or 20 years, somewhere in there. It was like on and off once I got to college and stuff. And I also worked with a lot of minority women, women in general. I think I just got my first male client in December. All of my clients have been women, black women. And the first time I got my first male client, I'm like, "I apologize for I'll be very girly." Brand assets, because [crosstalk 00:10:03].

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. So almost, I would say 95% of everything I create is built specifically for women and my drop workshop, my online course for women to get paid at speaking gigs sometimes, somehow, some way, a dude will land on the webinar or whatever and it's like, "Girl, you deserve this. You're better than this." I'm like, "Let's get those men off the stage and [crosstalk 00:10:28]." And they're just like, "Whoa, I'm not supposed to be here." So yeah. That's awesome.

Jess Ekstrom:
Hey, real quick. Have you ever felt like you were made for more, but you're just not sure what it is that you want to create, or maybe you have a ton of ideas bubbling over like champagne, but you just don't even know where to begin. A blank page in front of you can feel daunting and overwhelming. So I wanted to create a guided online journal designed to give people the clarity they need to make the world just a little bit brighter. Bright Pages is a guided online journal for people who do.

Jess Ekstrom:
Here's, how it works. You have your own private journal with a designated logging and each day you get a daily prompt inside the platform, but it's also emailed to you and you can just reply directly to that email with the prompt and it will save it into your journal. Technology, am I right? One of my favorite Bright Pages features are the prompt pathways. You can pick a pathway based on a goal that you have, whether it's writing a book, crafting a talk, or maybe starting a business, or even just getting out of a creative funk then you'll get prompts delivered to you for one week based on that specific pathway that you chose. Sign me up. Business on the Bright Side listeners get a special discount. So head to brightpages.com and enter the code pod to get 20% off the annual plan. That's brightpages.com and enter the code pod. P-O-D.

Jess Ekstrom:
So speaking of simplifying things, I'd love to take this last little bit and if there's like a couple of tips you want to give to anyone who's listening, who's either thinking about starting a business or whether it's a podcast or an e-commerce business, what are some simple legal things that we should be thinking about or doing as we start wanting to put our creations into the world?

Michelle Murphy:
Sure. So I'll say number one is you want to make sure that the name of whatever you're creating because it's always going to have a name, you're going to want to make sure that it's not taken. You can go onto the trademark website, it's uspto.gov and they have their own search engine. And it has a list of all of the trademarks registered and applied for marks that are out there. And you can just type in your name, it's not that simple, I try to make it as simple as possible so that people understand, but you just type in the name and all the possible names that are similar to yours. Will, pop up...

Michelle Murphy:
It is a federal government website so they're a little bit behind all the times. Sometimes the name won't pop up or if the spelling is, I'll use my other business, so the CEO of Legal Loft, if I said it was like the SHEO of Legal Loft that wouldn't pop up.

Jess Ekstrom:
Got it.

Michelle Murphy:
So you just want to think of variations of the name that you're choosing and go into that search engine and type it in. And then also just doing a simple Google search. Some names should pop up if they're similar to yours.

Jess Ekstrom:
So if there is a name that's similar, that pops up on a Google search, but doesn't pop up on the uspto.gov, is that an indicator that we can still go for it? Or should we reach out to that person? Or what is your thought?

Michelle Murphy:
So I would say it's not an indication because like I said, sometimes our search may be flawed and also like I said, spelling matters, but I do not reach out to that person, if you're putting yourself on that radar. Don't do that. I would say, maybe go to an attorney first. I know me and my other colleagues will do a knockout search for you. And we can tell you, "Hey, this is what we found." Maybe you should be able to move forward with it, but this is what we found. And if we found something, take these precautions, you've been warned.

Jess Ekstrom:
And trademarking is also not an immediate process at all and so if it's something that you guys are thinking about, whether it's a business name or even a podcast name, should people be trademarking some of their... If they have a book title or whatever it might be, what are scenarios where people should apply for trademark?

Michelle Murphy:
So podcast for sure, I've seen more and more podcasters starting to trademark their names and not getting them. They've been not in podcasts for years, but they're not getting the name because maybe the name they chose was more generic or it's already been taken. There's just so many variables and there's just like big companies. So I listened to Crime Junkie and I saw that their trademark didn't go through because there was an issue with it. And obviously their podcast is pretty big. And so-

Jess Ekstrom:
Right. They got an issue with their name?

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah.

Jess Ekstrom:
Oh, shit.

Michelle Murphy:
So, I'm not-

Jess Ekstrom:
It's just going to tell like no matter how big you are, you're not immune to anything.

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah. Even Victoria's Secret Pink, they had an issue. So-

Jess Ekstrom:
Oh really?

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah.

Jess Ekstrom:
Wow. That's crazy.

Michelle Murphy:
But as long as you have an attorney, we try to strategize and think of other ways that you may be able to get your trademark grow.

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. Okay. So trademarked and for me, we just got our Mic Drop Workshop trademark approved this week and that was like a year ago that we [crosstalk 00:16:27].

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah. It takes about nine to 12 months.

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. It's crazy. We just submitted our Bright Pages one. So check back in 2022 and we'll see if we got it. But any other final tips or advice for anyone who just wants to get their ducks in a row before they start something.

Michelle Murphy:
So if you have a website, do you just want to make sure that you have your terms and conditions up? You're limiting your liability by having those terms and conditions up. And then the big thing is privacy policies. So it's illegal not to have one basically in the U S now. If you take California clients, which pretty sure we all do. We have a California customers, California clients, they have their own privacy policy laws. So you need to have one on your website to be in compliant with their laws. And obviously then the EU has their own GDPR. So if you have clients, your customers that are coming from the European Union still you need to have a privacy policy on your website.

Jess Ekstrom:
Privacy policies are huge. Thank you, Facebook for that. Thanks Dr. Berg.

Michelle Murphy:
And then last thing I'll just say, make sure you're separating your business bank account from your personal.

Jess Ekstrom:
Oh, that's good. I know that sometimes when you're just getting started and then maybe the dollars are low, you're just like, "Oh, it's fine. Just put it in there. It's only like $10 or whatever I'm making." And then once it starts to become more... I know that I did that at the beginning of Headbands of Hope where I just did not have my books in a row because it felt like a hobby. I feel like the minute it starts making money, the minute it becomes a business.

Jess Ekstrom:
So someone else asked, if we have a podcast idea, but it's on the five-year plan, should we trademark the name now just like we would purchase a domain to reserve the name? So, if you haven't started a podcast yet, what are your thoughts on that?

Michelle Murphy:
You are able to hold a trademark name. You would file it under an intent to use filing basis, but you can only hold the name for about, I want to say it's like 18 to 24 months. After that, if you're not using the name, then you got to let it go.

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. That's interesting. I didn't know that you could even hold a name. And then another question, what are the costs and time involved for business owners when we trademarked like one name or multiple assets, such as a business podcast or YouTube channel.

Michelle Murphy:
So it really depends on which route you go, so you could go LegalZoom. There's just going to be much cheaper. I do not recommend them, but if you want to go that route, that is your choice. Get an attorney... The prices just range so much. I've seen some of my colleagues charge like $900. I've seen some charge, $5,000. I've seen some charge ten, like bigger law firms, they charge ten thousand. So it really just depends on what's important to you as far as your attorney.

Michelle Murphy:
I have different packages that I give to my clients to choose from. And yeah, we go from there. So it's just such a wide range. I would say you just talk to different attorneys, go to like three different attorneys, see who you match with, see what their packages are including and go from there.

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. And it is with legal, it is one of those things you get what you pay for a lot. I did register Mic Drop Workshop under, it might've been LegalZoom and this was a while ago and then I went to like check on it and they were like, "Oh yeah, there was a glitch and we forgot to file it."

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah. And they don't tell you.

Jess Ekstrom:
And I was like, "What?" And I was just like, "How?" And they were, "We'll give you $20 off your next one." I'm like, "What if I'd be waiting for this for eight months?" It was crazy. So, yeah. Okay. So just to recap, Michelle's first tip, research your name to ensure it can be trademarked, whether that's on the uspto.gov website, or just by Googling it, make sure you have your terms and conditions and privacy policies on your website. And yeah, it's really important to have a privacy statement and according to you having a California one as well. So is that a separate statement?

Michelle Murphy:
That is. It's available in your privacy policy. I think this is CalOPPA. That's what their statute is called.

Jess Ekstrom:
Okay. And then last one, open a business bank account. Keep your personal and business expenses.

Michelle Murphy:
I lied, not CalOPPA, it's CCPA.

Jess Ekstrom:
CCPA. Okay. I like how you had to, it just came to you. [crosstalk 00:21:02] Give me a minute. Got it. Some cool feedback. Yeah. The minute it starts making money, the minute you need to get a new bank account. Absolutely. And I know that maybe for some of you who are listening, it might feel like this is far off, but I'll tell you that it's really not. You guys could have your mission statement today and an idea next week and have your first customer the week after that. I think that's one of the cool parts of the world that we're living in is it is really easy to just start. What did you say Michelle?

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah. I've just opened an Etsy shop a week ago and I got plenty sales from it.

Jess Ekstrom:
Oh really? What are you selling on Etsy? Is it templates?

Michelle Murphy:
I am very multi-passionate.

Jess Ekstrom:
Oh, yeah. You're a dancer and you're an attorney so I can already tell. Yeah.

Michelle Murphy:
So the thing that I sell on Etsy is principals and I love money. Like finance, budgeting, all that stuff. I love doing it. It's probably weird, but that is my happy place. So I started selling budget printables on there.

Jess Ekstrom:
That's amazing. The day I ever sell budget principle. This is so far from like where my happy place is. I'm glad there's people like you in the world who someone said, say, multi-passionate creative over here. So you started your Etsy shop and you're already getting sales?

Michelle Murphy:
Yeah.

Jess Ekstrom:
And the cool part about the low barrier to entry to start is that it doesn't have to work out. You can test different things. It's not like you have to open a brick and mortar shop to be able to get customers and test an idea. You can throw something up in your Instagram bio that's like a lead magnet and just see if you get interest. There's so many different ways to be quick to start and test things but that's why it's important to have that mission statement, which we're working on this week to understand, what is it that you want to create and for what purpose.

Jess Ekstrom:
Okay. And someone else just had one more question and then we'll wrap it up. I have an LLC as a dietician and personal trainer for 10 years, went to file taxes last year and they said I was no longer in LLC been trying to unwind it for a year now, do you have any advice?

Michelle Murphy:
Where are you located first of all? Because everybody's LLC laws are different.

Jess Ekstrom:
Okay. They said Indiana.

Michelle Murphy:
Oh, okay. I don't even know any attorneys over there? Well, one thing is you have to renew your LLC every year. I know you do in Florida. I think that's... I don't want to say that's everywhere, but you have to renew it every year. So if you did not renew it one year, that's probably why it's no longer in LLC.

Jess Ekstrom:
Okay. Yeah. I didn't even know you had to renew LLC right here either. Someone said, gave me a great idea for a lead magnet. Awesome. Yeah. Just go ahead and start testing ideas but if you have a name or something that you're like really gung ho on that you want to start, reach out to Michelle. And Michelle, I put your Legal Loft website up here. Is that the best place for people to go to work with you or contact you?

Michelle Murphy:
So work with me personally, you'll want to go to wilsonmurphylaw.com.

Jess Ekstrom:
All right.

Michelle Murphy:
When they're speaking of Legal Loft its more so for like contract templates, if maybe you can't quite afford to work with an attorney, one-to-one quite yet.

Jess Ekstrom:
Perfect. Well, I know that if I had worked with you earlier, I probably would have had a lot less headaches with some of my names, but people say, "Yeah. I renew every year." And someone said, "Message me Karen if you're close to Kentucky, I'm in Louisville." Okay. Awesome. Contract templates there's your website but Michelle, thank you so much for coming on here. One of the great things about you and why I was so drawn to you is you make scary things, seem less scary. And so all of this doesn't have to be scary. It can be exciting because you're choosing a lane and you're solidifying your business and you're going for it. So we just really appreciate having you on here.

Michelle Murphy:
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Jess Ekstrom:
Yeah. You guys reach out to Michelle, follow her on Instagram.

Michelle Murphy:
I'm really fun on Instagram, I promise.

Jess Ekstrom:
She is a great follow. She's one of my favorites for sure. So yeah. What's your handle so I can put it on here.

Michelle Murphy:
Thetrademarkattorney_.

Jess Ekstrom:
The trade mark attorney.

Michelle Murphy:
And if you love Target. I'm always in my stories.

Jess Ekstrom:
Nice.

Michelle Murphy:
I like talking about my shopping halls at Target.

Jess Ekstrom:
My sister-in-law now works at Target, so she gets the employee discount. So if I needed any more reason to go with her then and that I'm there, but thank you, Michelle. You rock and we'll talk to you soon.

Michelle Murphy:
Thanks guys.

Jess Ekstrom:
And that's all folks. Thanks so much for listening. And just as a reminder, this was a recording at You 2.0 my 21 day guided online journaling challenge. Even though the challenge is over, you can still recreate it using the Bright Pages, prompt pathways, head to brightpages.com and start journaling.

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