How do you protect your trademarks when collaborating with someone else?

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As a creative entrepreneur, you are probably exploring collaborations and partnerships with other peeps. These collabs are likely to manifest in the form of:

  • A signature event (or event series)
  • A workshop
  • A web series
  • A podcast

Or maybe you’ve decided to partner up more long term and actually form a business with someone. Either way, one of the first topics you should address is….

*Insert drum roll*

“Who owns the name?” Yep.

How do you protect your trademarks when collaborating with someone else?

Most co-owners or collaborators, in a real attempt to be a team player, will say, at first, that all peeps were responsible for the name. However, I’ve observed that usually, one person brings the name to the table. Ready made. The other person signs off on it.

Either way, it’s important for you and your collaborators to get on the same page about who created the name, who owns it and who has what rights to it at the beginning of your business relationship.

Here are specific questions for you to address:

  • Who brought the name to the table?
  • Will this person register the trademark and license it to the collaboration?
  • Is it going to be a royalty-based licensing structure, an up-front fee?
  • If you’re going to consider it 50/50 property of the collaboration, then what happens after the collaboration is over?
  • Are both collaborators restricted from continued use of the name after the collaboration is over?
  • Is there a process in place for one person to buy the rights to the name?
  • What happens if both collaborators want to buy rights to the name? Will there be a bidding process?

If you don’t have this important conversation up front, then don’t be surprised if a nasty fallout ensues later because you didn’t clearly establish what would happen to the name when your collab was over.

  • Claiming solo ownership of the name because you were the one who suggested it.
  • Stopping your former collaborator from continuing to do business under the name without you.
  • Do your collaborators in creativity a favor and discuss everything now. I’d love to help you capture your agreement in writing. Let’s talk.