Trademarks 101: Your 10 Biggest Questions, Answered

Mashable

The below article was written by Nellie Akalp for Mashable.  A lot of good things to know below regardless if you are starting an Inn, Resort or any other type business… so I wanted to share. Thanks for the great article!

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For a startup, intellectual property is often the most valuable asset. Yet, IP isn’t just about patents and inventions. It can also include your brand assets — everything from the company name to the logo and product tagline.

Trademarks help keep your brand ID safe, with the idea that no one else in the market can come in and use your brand or trademark for a similar thing. But how much do you understand about the trademark process? Here are the answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions surrounding trademarks:

1. If I trademark my company/product name, does that mean nobody else can use it?

The main purpose of a trademark is to prevent confusion in the marketplace, ensuring that consumers will know who is behind a certain product or service. That’s why trademark protection only applies to a particular category of goods and services. Nike Inc. owns the mark on a variety of shoes, clothing, sporting goods, etc. But there’s also a Nike Corporation that’s involved in hydraulic lifting jacks and other heavy machinery. There’s really no risk of a consumer confusing those two companies.

2. What’s the difference between a trademark and registering with the state?

When you incorporate, form an LLC, or submit a DBA (Doing Business As) for your business, you are essentially registering your business name with the state. This prevents anyone else from registering a similar name for a similar business type in your state. The key difference is that this act does not offer any kind of protection in the 49 other states; that’s where federal trademark protection comes in.

3. When is the right time to trademark our company name?

You should lock up trademark rights for your company or product name as soon as possible by submitting an intent-to-use trademark application. This ensures that your brand is protected once you begin commercial sales. In addition, a comprehensive trademark search usually accompanies the registration filing. This search will ensure that your mark is available and you aren’t accidentally infringing on someone else’s mark. You definitely don’t want to be on the wrong end of a trademark dispute.

4. How long does it take to get a trademark?

The registration process can take anywhere from nine months to several years, although most applications are completely processed within a year. The length often depends on the complexity of the mark and any conflicts or legal issues that arise while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examines your application. Once you file your paperwork, you are given a receipt and your filing date is marked. In terms of future trademark disputes, the earlier your filing date, the better.

5. What class should I choose?

When you apply for a trademark, you need to specify the particular goods or services that you are using your trademark with. There are 45 different classes to choose from. Software traditionally falls under Class 9 “Electrical and Scientific Apparatus.” The USPTO website provides a handy search feature to help you identify your class. For example, enter “beer” in the search field, and you’ll see that “beer” is class 32; Non-metal taps for beer kegs are class 20; and beer pumps are 7. If your mark is used on different products, you may need to file trademarks in multiple classes.

6. How long is a trademark good for? How long does a trademark last?

Trademarks today have a 10-year term. Once that term is up, you can renew a registration for another 10 years, and there’s no limit to how many times you renew the trademark. As long as you keep filing your renewals, along with your Declaration of Use forms, you can have a trademark as long as you’d like.

7. Should I register my company’s name or logo?

You can’t register your company name and logo in the same application, so many businesses will submit multiple filings — one for the company name, company logo, product name, product logo, etc. However, the reality is that many small businesses and bootstrapped startups are working with a limited budget and prefer to just register a single trademark.

If you can only do one trademark registration, you are probably best off registering your business name with a “standard character claim.” This means that your trademark broadly covers your name regardless of what font or stylistic elements are used (for example, no one could use your company name with a different font or lower case instead of upper case letters). But keep in mind this doesn’t offer protection for the design elements of your logo.

8. Can I trademark my name?

Yes, particularly people whose names are also their professions like actors or designers. If your name also identifies your business, you should consider trademarking your name.

Generally speaking, a personal name can be trademarked if it’s considered “distinctive”. The more common a name, the less likely your trademark application will be approved. But even an unusual name is no guarantee that you’ll be awarded a trademark; just ask Jay-Z and Beyoncé who have been struggling to trademark their baby daughter Blue Ivy’s name.

9. Can a trademark help me get a domain name?

Yes. Under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection law, a trademark owner can sue for damages and recover a domain name when someone is squatting on a domain name that’s identical or similar to their trademark. For example, Morgan Freeman trademarked his name so he could take back the domain name www.morganfreeman.com. To do this, you need to prove that the person has been using the domain name in bad faith (i.e. to make a profit off of your brand).

10. What happens if someone else uses my trademark?

If another company is in a different type of business than you, you may not have legal grounds to stop them from using your mark. As the owner of a trademark, you can stop someone else from using your mark when it’s being used on competing goods or services, and when consumers would be confused by their use of the trademark.

If you believe someone is infringing on your mark, an attorney will first send a cease and desist letter on your behalf, demanding the other user to stop using your mark. If that’s unsuccessful, you can file a lawsuit (most likely in federal court) to stop the use. In many cases, you can also sue for money damages from the user. In fact, legal recourse is the biggest advantage of registering your trademark.

Awesome Kitchen

Kitchen experiences take part in significant memories; talks over wine in the kitchen with girlfriends and cooking hearty breakfasts with family before hitting the slopes.

The truth is that travelers thoroughly consider where to dine and what to cook!  It can save a few bucks for the guest on a budget and having a private kitchen is often the reason, one way or another, for choosing a vacation home over a hotel.

My biggest recommendation is to ensure your home provides opportunities for these memorable moments to happen by offering a great kitchen.  By ‘gourmet’, the intent isn’t high expense (unless you are offering a true luxury home).  Just…thoughtful, my favorite tip.  The feelings associated with those experiences will never be forgotten, nor will your home.

This post focuses on mountain town kitchens, but is really applicable to any. Guests themselves created this list of kitchen “must-have’s” but I thought it equally important to gain the perspective of chef, author and mountain vacation home owner, Jennie Iverson:

 
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As the author of Ski Town Soups, I wanted to showcase the perfectly balanced recipe for life: a ski town, a comfortable restaurant and a yummy bowl of soup.  With a little heart and attention to detail, I believe you can capture that ambiance in your Vacation Rental’s kitchen.

In my active life as a wife and mother of 2, soon to be 3, rambunctious boys, my mission is to enjoy days on the mountain (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, etc.), then return and relax in a cozy home environment – quite possibly relishing a bowl full of soup in front of the crackling fire.

Upon finishing the coffee-table caliber cookbook, Ski Town Soups, it reaffirmed that although soup is typically meant to simmer, life is meant to boil.  This is the experience that your travelers are trying to savor.

I suggest making it easy for your traveling guests by personalizing your kitchen for ease and comfort.

In a mountain community, there is nothing more inviting than a large kitchen with a spacious island for gathering around – sampling artichoke dip appetizers, hot toddy drinks, and a pot of Bavarian Goulash just removed from the stovetop.

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I have a very good friend with the most inviting, expansive, and congregating kitchen – she has hosted sushi-making parties, a Ladies Pastry Party and a festive holiday gathering with separate drink stations throughout her kitchen.  In her culinary haven, there is a breakfast nook and a large stovetop on the island that allows her to mingle while stirring her homemade caramel sauce or beer cheese soup.

However, not all properties have the luxury of being “large” and “spacious”.  Our kitchen in our European Mountain Chalet in Vail is a little more modest and traditionally laid-out: the kitchen is separate from the more formal dining room.   But, I can still make “magic” in this accessible and well-appointed kitchen.

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When your guests enter the less familiar kitchen, it’s wonderful to have options on display to give them ideas of what they can create.  I would suggest having the soup pot on display with the ladle close-at-hand with Ski Town Soups standing adjacent.

Soups are easy to make in advance for large group sizes and are incredibly forgiving. You could also have a Kitchen Aid standing mixer on the counter with a muffin pan or quick bread pan beside.  Or, in your designated bar area, you might set out the wine opener, martini shaker, and chilling bucket.

Accessibly grouping appliances and accompaniments together will make your kitchen and their experience in it stress-free. Also, giving guests ideas when they arrive adds a home touch and uniqueness to your property.

I believe, if a person is vacationing in a mountain community, one of the last things they are inclined to do is slave-away in the kitchen, all day.  And, even if they are excited about this prospect, you can surely make it more approachable and enjoyable with ease: have sample recipes available and provide sample grocery lists.

Another especially personal idea would be to make a guest book for culinary comments, such as “Page 178 – This was the best soup I’ve ever made; it is hearty and perfect with herbed bread!”

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Finally, in the food world, I continually talk with restaurant owners and chefs about being ahead of the curve and creating “the experience”.  As a Vacation Rental Owner, that is what you are trying to maximize!

Often times, my friends and I entertain in each others homes; the flow and informality is more conducive to conversation, especially in peak season when the restaurants are at full capacity.  I’m guessing that not every night do your traveling guests want to splurge on restaurant meals, but not every night do they want take-out pizza.  So, make it easy for them to optimize the culinary options that your kitchen offers, thus making more memorable meals and experiences.

 

 Great kitchen Must Have’s

Large Appliances: Mountain travelers I spoke with regarding this project have never insinuated the need to buy a La Cornue’s Grand Palais range, or even Viking for that matter. But they do desire a cooktop in a functional location (and preferably gas)!  Guests want to whip up something delicious and take part in family conversations.  I recommended paying attention to the layout of the large appliances and kitchen prior to purchase or remodeling; it can turn a good rental experience into a great one.

Ensure your large appliances work properly, are clean and esthetically pleasing. Unless you are offering a rustic experience (an old cabin, yurt or canvas tents), a dishwasher is also mandatory. A built-in ice maker will really please guests as well.

Cookware: Upon settling into any vacation home, I always prep a meal for my family. It’s a routine I enjoy.  When a mountain town client asked me to assess one of his difficulty vacation homes, I gladly obliged and followed my typical nesting behaviors.  I unpacked my overnight bag, slipped into pajama’s and attempted to cook over a glass of wine.

Every pan was warped or had Teflon flaking off.  Nothing is worse than cooking on a sticky, wobbly pan.

Sturdy cast iron pans, pottery dishes, sturdy hot cocoa mugs and perfect wine glasses are on the must-buy list for any mountain home.  Guests love a fabulous copper mug for a fabulous Moscow Mule, too!

No one wants a painful cooking process.  Meals on vacation are often a poignant part of the memories created.  Make assessing your cookware apart of your regular property audit and provide good quality products.

Coffee Maker: You don’t have to buy the most expensive model, nor the cheapest.  My guests have always appreciated those with a few bells and whistles- hot water on demand for tea and soup, height to fill traveler mugs and charcoal filters to keep minerals out (if you have really hard water).  Buy a backup, too.  Nothing is worse than a morning coffee snafu!

Kettle: Electric or old school.  I provide an old school, steel kettle at my Park City cottage as it adds nicely to the decor.  Guest often use it to add moisture in the air as Park City is very dry (I also provide multiple humidifiers!).  Most often, I’ve been told deluxe coffee pot offering hot water on demand is a nice (and quick) touch for tea time.  But that an old school kettle adds to the charm and experience.

Beverage Selection:  Guests really appreciate a kitchen stocked with a selection of gourmet coffee, hot cocoa and tea.  I buy small serving size packages, so the home offers a great mixture of flavors that remain fresh.  It’s a nice touch to get my guests started!

4-Slice Toaster: Make sure a bagel can fit!

Slow Cooker: A great extra for cold-weather climates.  Jennie has already said it much better than me, but nothing beats coming “home” to a warm bowl of stew after a day in the snow!

Stand Mixer: Guests prepare anything from breakfast waffles to an entire Christmas feast while on vacation.  Stand mixers make everything easier (read: multitasking)!

Blender or Magic Bullet: I stock my properties with a blender and “Magic Bullet”.  I started with a nice blender for smoothies and the like.  But after receiving a couple requests (nearly at the same time for two different vacation rentals) for a Magic Bullet, I provided all my properties with one, too!  They are great to help with any task in the kitchen and are small in size.  Your guests will appreciate having both.

Herbs and Spices:  Herbs and spices are expensive, which can be frustrating for a guest when they only need a dash or two during a weekend trip.  I stalk a variety of fresh spices (check these in your property audit be sure they haven’t gone stale) and even have fresh potted herbs available at some vacation homes.

Offer to Grocery Shop:  Guests would rather not spend their vacation time at the grocery store. It snows a lot in the mountains and trudging through drifts (after your long day skiing) isn’t very appealing.  You’d rather be next to a cracking fire, right!?  I always offer to pick up groceries for them or work with local grocery delivery services.

Cookbooks:  Offering unique cookbooks at your vacation rental is an easy way to differentiate your kitchen.  Find those that offer local recipe’s or have a cultural flair specific to your region.  My favorite at my Park City rentals is Jennie’s soup cookbook “Ski Town Soup”!  Not only is every single recipe amazing, some are local!  It’s been a big hit.  Whether or not you own a mountain vacation home, I suggest checking out this book!

A great kitchen should provide enough amenities for family to make a full holiday meal or fabulous cocktails, should they so desire.  The layout should flow to encourage interaction, but doesn’t necessarily have to be large in size.

Travelers love dishes, cook wear and amenities that add to the experience of the local environment.  They don’t have to be expensive; just unique and charming!  Local craft fairs and markets are usually a good place to find pieces for your vacation rental (and it supports your community).  A little extra attention to the kitchen details can go a long way as cooking, eating, and savoring delicious beverages is the most common way to entertain inside the vacation rental home.

Written by Kris Getzie, Volo Founder and Principal Consultant and Jennie Iverson, Author of Ski Town Soups and Chef.

Insider Tips To Extend Your Rental Season

This post was written by Volo for Tripping:

I distinctly remember worrying about the looming slow season when I began my career in the vacation rental business. I worried about it before peak season even began. Like most people, everything I have I worked really hard for and the thought of losing money on my investment, and possibly foregoing my new career, was scary.

The truth is that a well-positioned vacation rental home, with a thought out marketing plan, should reap rewards. Regardless of your situation, it is possible to increase your revenue substantially by extending your season into the shoulder months, or creating a new one completely.

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How to extend your booking season

1. Have a game plan! Define your plan 3-6 months prior to start of your slow season so you have enough time to attract the right guest(s).

2. Should you find a tenant? Retired couples are great candidates for 6-8 month leases. Ensure you are crystal clear about the lease duration when it is less than one year.

3. Is there a market to continue renting your home out nightly or weekly? If so, assess your rates and reduce your minimum stay requirements to 2 or 3 nights. Also provide reduced rates for weekly and monthly stays.

Many travelers are growing to appreciate less traveled times across the globe. Fall seasons, for example, see lower traffic and have milder, but equally beautiful, weather. Lower prices don’t hurt, either.

4. Promote the advantages to staying at your home in the off season. What is there to do nearby? What is the weather like? Be generous with the attraction information and add photos of events, scenery and your home during those months.

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5. Suggest off season getaways on your website. Mountain towns are known for their winter months, so I suggest that my local clients create summer and fall getaways packages. For example, guys mountain biking trips, girl spa weekends or even Olympic Park adventure trips.

Partner with local businesses for discounted gift certificates to create really unique and tasty (literally- include restaurants coupons!) experiences for your guests.

6. Understand life events. Graduation, both high school and college, can draw travelers in June. Wedding are booming in the fall, a shoulder season for most locations.

How can your home accommodate these groups? Vacation rentals can certainly be a more affordable housing option than a hotel, so be sure to suggest it as such. Provide groups with flexible check-in and departure days if you normally regulate them.

For one reason or another, you might be looking to extend your booking season. If you market your home appropriately, and price it well, you can certainly increase your revenue with a little extra effort.

Desire More Beach Time? Outsource.

One concern that has been echoed by my clients new to the vacation rental business is that of time (or lack there of) and how it may impact cash flow.

They are working professionals hoping to increase their income (and possibly replace it), but don’t necessarily have the capacity to take on another full-time gig at onset.

Home Away states that the average VR owner spends approximately 8.6 hours per week marketing and managing their business, which is feasible. However, when first setting up your business, the time needed may be considerably more.

Owners can’t rush the details when starting starting their vacation rental or when interacting with guests. It will hinder the experience you need to create to stand out.

This is why clients hire me.

My clients either don’t have the time to research how to do everything, don’t have the time to DIY, or they want to DIY but they need a help ensuring perfection.

For those feeling overwhelmed with on-going tasks, it’s time to consider outsourcing work! Outsourcing will not only save you time, but can increase your cash flow in the long-term (think guest loyalty and business growth).

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Stressful Tasks

Regardless if you have 1 or 100 rentals, a time will come when you meet dreadful, redundant tasks or those that are overwhelming (due to the job size or needed expertise).

When you feel this resistance creeping up, it’s time to identify what task is causing you duress and hire someone else to do it. Your time is more valuable enhancing the experience and marketing of your home- or spending it with your family and friends!

Besides, it’s obvious when a job is completed with excitement and passion, not resentment.

I personally am a very hands-on owner. So, when it came time to landscape my Park City cottage recently, I jumped in eagerly. After re-stacking the rock wall and attempting to plant bushes, I quickly became miserable…and thought of this post.

Park City soil is terrible (clay, hard and has a LOT of rocks… I mean boulders). I needed to hire out the rest of the job. Had I stuck it out, the end result would have been mediocre, at best. Not the first appearance I want guests to have of my home.

Concierge

Above and beyond the time needed to manage your home and inquiries, offering exceptional guest services (or acting as a concierge) can really elevate your guests overall stay.

But this takes time, a fleeting resource. Depending on the guest (some like more interaction than others), guest services can be consuming.

By providing a lot of information on your website and in your house manual (thorough FAQ section and ‘insider’s travel’ information), you can reduce time spent answering questions.

This shouldn’t completely replace personal interaction, however, as this is why we own and manage our vacation homes!

Independent concierge providers can help, should you need it. Most, that I have come across thus far, are regionally based as they have an intimate knowledge of a specific location and can really benefit owners with limited time.

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Cooper’s Cabin, for example, offers guest services such as transportation, discounted tickets and equipment rentals, events knowledge and food delivery. If you are traveling yourself, they can even act as the full-time point of contact for guests and inquiries.

They are professional, helpful and really engage your guests with your community.

From full-service to a la carte options, concierge services can play as big of a role as you need them to. And they can save vacation rental owners, who are considering hiring a property manager, a lot of money.

Lack The Know-How

Every vacation rental blog nowadays will tell you how important it is to have an independent site with a blog. The blog refreshes your content (SEO!) and provides on-going information to potential guests.

It’s a great marketing tool.

Realistically, many of my clients cringe at the thought of writing a regular blog (even writing 200 words, once per month). They understand the importance, but writing for some just isn’t fun. Actually, it can be downright painful because they don’t know how, or even want to be, a blogger.

Hire this stuff out.

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If you are not trying to be an industry thought leader, you just want to provide fun and helpful tidbits in your area, it’s perfectly okay to get help with tasks that you don’t know how to do well, but will enhance your experience.

Today pretty much every aspect of your vacation rental business can be hired out if you are pressed for time, or just don’t want to do it.

Recent projects I have completed for clients (or have helped them find someone to do it) include:

  • Social Media management
  • Location guides
  • Activities and events
  • Competitor analysis
  • Vacation Rental Branding
  • Ad writing
  • Blogging
  • Photography
  • Logo
  • Website design and management (Webchalet, MyVR, WordPress)
  • Cleaning providers
  • Property maintenance
  • Concierge services (how-to-DIY and/or hiring the right partner)

Research the company/person you plan to hire and screen them as you would an employee. Ask for references and start with small projects (unless they come with outstanding referrals from people you know).

A quick Google search will also yield outsourcing sites like Elance and Virtual Staff Finder. I have used them all, but prefer to ‘buy local’ or from personal referral when I can!

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant