Etsy.com has become an extremely popular platform where artists, designers, and entrepreneurs sell their goods and conduct business. That increased popularity has led to an ever-growing roster of venders and in turn – a higher risk of trademark infringement.
A properly registered trademark works on two fronts: It gives you exclusive rights over the use of your brand. It also gives you confidence that you are not infringing on another’s brand – a situation that can have significant legal and financial implications for your business. This blog discusses the Etsy trademark infringement rules and why a registered federal trademark will benefit your Etsy business.
Typically, a trademark infringement claim would work its way through the court system allowing both sides to present arguments and participate in discovery. Etsy handles things differently. A trademark owner can simply notify Etsy of a perceived infringement without the need to file a federal lawsuit. The accused party is then notified to remove or modify the listing in question. Unfortunately, this system is vulnerable to abuse by bad actors.
You have an opportunity to file a counter claim – again through Etsy – in an attempt to show that there is no infringement. Having said that, Etsy will typically side with the complaining party unless the accused party has its trademark registered.
Properly registering your trademarks with the USPTO is the best defense you can have against claims of infringement. While Etsy’s claim system allows for “good faith” explanations of why a mark may or may not be infringing, a federal trademark provides concrete proof that you are indeed the rightful owner of a mark and entitled to use it freely.
People looking to abuse the claim system through illegitimate infringement accusations are looking for the “low hanging fruit” – shop owners who don’t own their trademarks. Properly registering your trademark with the USPTO along with the use of the circled “R” registration symbol, shows that you own the exclusive rights to that mark, and that you intend to use it and defend it.
There may also be legitimate claims of copyright infringement against you. With well over a million active shops, the number of names and trademarks already in use is massive and constantly growing. You can protect yourself from inadvertently infringing on an existing shop or product name by performing a comprehensive clearance search of your mark and then registering that trademark. A successfully registered trademark means that the USPTO, after review, has determined that your mark is unique enough to identify you and you alone, and to not infringe on another. My office includes a comprehensive clearance search (that covers many platforms including Etsy) in every trademark application package. I also offer a standalone clearance search option.
Every matter is unique, so contacting a trademark attorney to assist you in reviewing the claim and determining the best way to respond is advised. Etsy is a great platform to conduct business, but having a solid legal foundation for your intellectual property is the only way to protect your online business.
Contact Alex to discuss the post or to get started on protecting your Etsy shop brands.