Chances are, if you are considering starting an Etsy shop, you have spent a fair amount of time deciding on a name for that shop. The name symbolizes you, your branding and image, your customers, and it takes on a dominant role in the creation of an online business. Unfortunately, often once a name is picked, little more is done with respect to the name.
Until you get the warning. I’ve seen Etsy shop owners get warning letters, or notification letters, regarding the use and/or infringement of trademark rights in the shop name or product. Etsy seems to have a fairly strict intellectual property rights policy: previous clients have told me that it is a three-strikes-your-out game, and just about anyone can throw those strikes in the form of a complaint submitted through an online form in a matter of minutes.
Thus, protecting your shop name, and using it properly, is a very important next step for a new shop. Developing trademark rights is essential to the success and long-term vitality of the shop.
Trademark rights arise and inure to the benefit of a person or company selling goods or services. Typically, we think of trademarks as those names, logos, and catchphrases on billboards, storefronts, and advertising brochures. However, trademark rights can be developed in much less sophisticated, though just as proper and powerful, ways.
A correctly structured Etsy shop has everything that is needed to create trademark rights. Goods are offered. The goods are advertised in connection with a shop name. The consumer can purchase the goods. That’s about all that is necessary.
However, building trademark rights in a name is not as simple as just setting up the online shop. Some consideration must be given to how the goods are displayed, how the mark is displayed, and how the trademark is used, or things can go wrong
For instance, clothing is one of the largest markets on Etsy, but poses one of the most difficult types of goods for which one can obtain trademark protection. Decorative clothing, silk-screened shirts, handmade dresses are advertised for sale, but if not done correctly, will never lead to trademark rights because the use of the trademark can be considered to be merely ornamental by competitors, the Trademark Office, and even courts. I see the ornamental kiss of death all the time; just using a name on the front of a shirt is not going to protect that name. Not only will you not be able to protect the name, but others may be able to usurp and develop their own trademark rights in it. This is a field in which careful guidance from a trademark lawyer in developing the clothing and building the Etsy shop is crucial and fairly painless.
As another example, with these other goods, the goods or services with which the trademark is used must be related to the trademark carefully. Otherwise, you can end up developing trademark rights as a retailer of goods, rather than as a manufacturer of goods. In other words, if you sell belts, and you really see yourself as a leather worker, you may not trademark rights in “online retail store services featuring belts.” You’ll want your trademarks to be associated with the belts themselves. This is a dichotomy that the Trademark Office has been getting particularly adept at noticing in the last year or two, and can be important for the depth and breadth of your protection.
In summary, consult a local trademark attorney if you are considering starting an Etsy store and are giving any serious thought about the name. Designing, protecting, and using the name are important and necessary parts of running your online business.