|Oregon State Bar Bulletin FEBRUARY/MARCH 2011|
This month, we feature two new sites for lawyers. One helps you protect your clients’ trademarks from being lost within the dense and vast environs of hundreds of social networking sites. The other helps you save money on office supplies and equipment.
Protect Trademarks in Social
Say you own the trademark “Widget.” How do you prevent someone from registering that name as a user name on any of the hundreds of social networks out there? How do you find out whether someone is using it already?
A new website, TM.Biz, www.tm.biz, aims to do exactly that for trademark owners — protect their brands from drowning in a sea of social networks. The site searches and monitors the 500 most popular social networks for use of a trade name as a user name. It then provides detailed, downloadable reports of its findings.
The site also offers a service to register your trade name across all these social networks, in order to reserve it to you and block others from using it.
The site is free to join and to search. Fees are charged if you order reports, watches and name reservations. I’ll give more details about the fees, but first let me go over how the site works.
Let’s say I own the trade name “Ambrogi.” After I log in to TM.Biz, my first step is to conduct an availability search across the various social networks to find out if the name is taken. When I do that, TM.Biz gives me a summary showing whether the name is available or taken for the top 50 social networking sites.
It also shows me the numbers for the top 50, top 100, top 250 and top 500. So I see, for example, that within the top 500 sites, my name is in use at 54 of them and available at 411 of them. (Some sites failed to report, which can happen for any number of reasons.)
The searches are in real time and take a few moments to run. Once you run a search, TM.Biz caches it for 24 hours so that you can return to it more quickly.
If I want more details, I have to order a search report. Two kinds are available. The basic report lists all the sites where the name is taken, all the sites where it available, and all the sites that listed the name as unacceptable or restricted for some reason. (A name may be marked unacceptable, for example, if it fails to meet a site’s requirements for a user name.)
A more detailed report, called an In-Use Report, shows this same information, but adds to the mix screen captures showing the actual use of the name on the site, generally by showing the profile associated with the user name.
The cost of a report depends on the number of results you want. For the top 50 sites, the basic report is $29 and the in-use report is $99. For the top 100, the prices are $49 and $199. The most expensive is the top 500, at $199 for the basic report and $599 for the in-use report.
Watches and Registrations
A second service TM.Biz offers is to monitor these networks periodically for use of your trademark. It offers packages by which it will check for your name monthly, twice a month or weekly. The cost of these watches ranges from $99 a year for a monthly watch of the top 50 to $459 a year for a weekly check of the top 500.
The final service the site offers is name reservation. It will register your name for you at the sites where the name is available. Again, this is priced by the number of sites at which you choose to register: $199 for the top 50, $349 for the top 100, $599 for the top 250 and $999 for the top 500. (Rush prices are available.)
When you order the reservation service, TM.Biz creates a unique e-mail address and inbox for the name. This keeps you from being flooded with e-mails from hundreds of social networks. You can read them if you choose, but you need not.
The actual process of registration at all these sites is done manually, so it can take anywhere from hours to days, depending on the number of sites at which you choose to register. The registrations are made through TM.Biz and do not show your name or your client’s name.
TM.Biz offers free registration and searching. However, it limits access to the site to lawyers, trademark professionals and trademark owners.
The site is owned by EnCirca, an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar. The company president, Thomas Barrett, is a former vice president of the trademark research company Thomson & Thomson, where he was responsible for the development of the pioneering SAEGIS trademark research platform, which is now owned by Thomson Reuters.
Group Buying for Small Firms
A few columns ago, I wrote about GroupESQ, www.groupesq.com, a site that aims to deliver group-buying power to lawyers, even in small firms. Now, another site, Prime Advantage Legal, www.primeadvantagelegal.com, is offering a similar service for small- and mid-sized law firms, but on a broader scale and with more consistent discounts.
You might recall that GroupESQ offers its deals on a contingency. Each deal requires a minimum number of buyers in order to become effective. If you see a deal you like, you submit a purchase order. If the minimum number of buyers is reached, you get the deal.
Prime Advantage is more straightforward. It has negotiated group-purchasing discounts with a number of vendors. The discounts apply across a range of products. As soon as you become a member of Prime Advantage, you become entitled to the discount.
These vendors include CDW, Dell Computers, Staples, OfficeMax, car rental companies, hotel chains and other companies.
Although Prime Advantage is new to the legal industry, it has been in this business for 13 years. It started out negotiating bulk discounts for industrial manufacturing companies and then moved on to other industries. It currently has 700 companies as members of its group-buying program.
So far, it does not offer discounts on any products specific to lawyers. It hopes to be able to offer discounts on CLE programs, liability insurance, litigation support services and the like.
The most attractive feature of Prime Advantage is the cost of membership: Zero. It charges companies in other industries a fee to become a member of its group-buying program. But because it is new to the legal industry, it is offering membership for free.
Mike McDonald, the company’s vice president for new business relationships, told me that it will eventually charge law firms a membership fee. However, firms that join before then will be grandfathered and never have to pay the fee, he said.
So the bottom line is this: Here is a program that offers discounts on computers, office supplies, car rentals and other essential products. There is no cost to join. There is no hitch — no minimum buying requirements or the like.
If the price is right, based on the discounts they offer, you save some money. If you can get a better price elsewhere, you’ve lost nothing by joining. Given this, Prime Advantage Legal seems worth a try.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.
© 2011 Robert Ambrogi