Marketing

A Trademark Law Startup Wants to Be Like Yelp


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.

Photograph by Christopher Powers/Bloomberg

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.

(Corrects the number of visitors to Trademarkia's website)

In 2009, legal startup Trademarkia introduced a search engine for U.S. trademarks, making it cheaper and easier to register intellectual property. The next year, the company filed 4,000 trademark registrations—an amount that founder Raj Abhyanker says is twice as many as the largest trademark law firms. Rival attorneys complained about Trademarkia’s marketing techniques.

Earlier this month, Trademarkia unleashed a new mapping feature, which Abhyanker says was designed as a tool for people who want to find and support community businesses—and which will probably help the company sell legal services to new customers.

The mapping feature is relatively straightforward. Trademarkia geocodes trademark registrations as they’re filed, allowing its users to search for recent registrations within a specified radius of a given address. Users can also set alerts to notify them when new registrations are filed. “This allows you to find businesses before they’re on Yelp (YELP),” Abhyanker says.

He acknowledges that the types of businesses most likely to register for trademarks are the “Shark Tank crowd,” by which he means brand-focused entrepreneurs who often appear on the reality TV series. The mom-and-pop cafes or local toy shops likely to be listed on Yelp, for example, are less likely to file trademark registrations.

In other words, Trademarkia’s mapping tool seems better-suited to allowing trademark holders to police their brands—and to funnel legal fees to Abhyanker in the process.

As Karen E. Klein reported in 2011, Trademarkia’s business model is to up-sell: Business owners searching for trademarks are encouraged to sign up for a trademark-application filing service from Abhyanker’s law firm. Along the same lines, a business owner who uses the mapping feature to discover a possible infringement among new filings in their vicinity can “hire us to do cease-and-desist,” Abhyanker says.

Abhyanker insists that Trademarkia didn’t develop the new feature to generate business. “We want to increase the number of people on our site, and we want to delight them by presenting them with data that’s relevant and useful,” he says.

Trademarkia’s website gets about 70,000 unique visitors a day, says Abhyanker, and less than 1 percent will ever complete a trademark registration. At those odds, getting more people to the site can only help up-sell his legal services—whether visitors are looking for a new place to eat or a better way to police their brands.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

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Companies Mentioned

  • YELP
    (Yelp Inc)
    • $76.07 USD
    • 0.03
    • 0.04%
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