Woo Hoo! Retire by 40 is a registered trademark! I have been blogging for almost 6 years and I should have filed for trademark registration years ago. When I first started, Retire by 40 wasn’t making any money so there was no need to trademark it. Once we started making some income, there were too many things to do and I kept putting it off because it seems like a lot of paperwork. Big mistake…
Trademark Your Brand
A few years ago, I heard about a site with a similar name to Retire by 40, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Blogs come and go all the time. A lot of the personal finance blogs that were around in 2010 have disappeared or were bought out. It was a mistake to ignore a site that infringed on my brand, though. The other site became successful and built a niche of followers. I don’t begrudge their success, but the name is just too similar and it is confusing to casual readers.
The last straw was when my mom started reading the other site and asked if I wrote it. My mom isn’t very tech savvy so I forgive her, but this made it clear that we have to resolve the issue. I started using “Retire by 40” in 2010 so I have prior use. If we go to court, I’ll have the law on my side. However, filing a lawsuit is the absolute last option. It would cost a ton of money for both parties, probably over $10,000 each. If neither party backs down, the cost could easily run up to six figures. I don’t want to get into a long drawn out fight and help a lawyer buy a boat.
I called a local trademark attorney and she suggested sending a “cease and desist” letter ($800) or trying to work things out myself. I talked with the other site’s owner and luckily, the vision for their site had evolved. They agreed to rebrand and I gave them plenty of time to do it. We’re both very lucky to have worked it out amicably. I’m a slow learner, but here are my lessons from this episode.
- Research your brand before investing a lot of time and money into it. Here is a link to the USPTO trademark search engine. Check if your brand infringes on someone’s trademark. Look forward to spending a lot of money on a lawyer if it does.
- Register a trademark when you start making some money. I’d say file if you make over $5,000 per year.
- Protect your brand by looking it up on Google once in awhile. If you see a new site or brand with similar name, then tell your lawyer to send a “cease and desist” letter ASAP.
Late last year, I filed the application online at USPTO and it cost just $225. The actual application was pretty easy to fill out, but I had to read through numerous documents and I also watched a bunch of tutorial videos before I was ready to do it. It was a good learning experience, but it took a lot of time. The videos, in particular, were pretty good. They are much easier to understand than reading through a ton of documents. You can watch a few of the videos at the USPTO’s trademark basics page if you want to learn more about trademark and copyright (scroll down just a bit). If you don’t have time to do it yourself, then you can hire a trademark attorney or use Legal Zoom. I think a trademark lawyer starts around $1,000 and Legal Zoom charges $199 + the Federal filing fee.
The most difficult thing about the process was the “identification.” If this isn’t worded just right, the USPTO will reject your application. Here is my ID for reference.
Retire by 40’s Identification: On-line journals, namely, blogs featuring personal finance, particularly, saving, investing, and retirement planning.
From what I understand the word “particularly” is very important. You should not use open ended-words like “including” or “and the like.”
Blogging in 2016
Blogging is a lot different now than when I first started. 6 years is a long time in blog years. I think it was much easier to get traction in 2010 because there weren’t that many blogs around. When I started, there was just one early retirement blog – Early Retirement Extreme. Now there are probably 50 early retirement blogs and the numbers will continue to grow. It’s nice to see the community growing, but I assume it is more difficult to gain readers as well.
Google also changed a lot. I think they are more biased toward bigger sites now. Google also likes in-depth articles and that’s not really my strength. Our search traffic has been flat for about two years now and that’s a little disappointing. When I first started, the search traffic was growing every month.
Making money online is also a lot different than in 2010. Back then, our main source of income was sponsored posts. Companies wanted links to their site because this increased their Google ranking. Sponsored articles were an easy way to make money back then, but this is no longer valid. Google now penalizes sites that buy rankings, so we rarely sponsor articles these days. Now we generate income from a combination of sources.
- Banner ads – These are banner ads that you see at the top and on the right sidebar. These ads were a great source of income in 2014, but the pay has been decreasing. Our income from banner ads decreased by about 50% since 2014.
- Click ads – These are the ads by media.net at the bottom of the article. If a reader clicks on one of these links, we’ll make a few cents. The income here decreased even more than the banner ads. I think almost everyone has learned to ignore these click ads.
- Affiliate links – These are links to services and products that I place throughout the site. I only link to products I use and like so there a limited number of companies that I work with. Personal Capital is our biggest affiliate, but that can’t go on forever. Eventually, all the people who might use Personal Capital will have already signed up.
All in all, I think it is tougher now to make money from blogging just through advertising. Now it is better to use your blog as a platform to sell your products or services. Once RB40Jr starts kindergarten, I will have more time to explore this. I might try consulting or personal coaching and see if it is a good fit.
Blogging is still a great outlet and I encourage everyone to try it. You never know if your blog will make it big. It’s not difficult to start a blog. You just need to come up with a unique name, see if the domain name is available, and then just start writing. It is much more difficult to keep going.
You can register your domain and get a hosting plan at Bluehost for just
$7.99 $3.49 per month. This is an example of an affiliate link. 😉
What do you think about blogging? Would you like to see a post about how to start a blog?