If you become involved in a trademark dispute, are having trouble getting your mark registered, or simply want some advice from a professional about a trademark issue, you will want to consult a trademark lawyer. Note, it is often not necessary that the trademark attorney you choose is in your local area since many trademark actions—for example, appealing from a trademark objection—can be done from anywhere in the U.S.
Find a Lawyer Who Knows the Trademark Field Well
Trademark lawyers usually advertise in the yellow pages and legal journals as intellectual property specialists able to handle patent, trademark, copyright, and trade-secret cases. Because each of these fields is increasingly becoming a complicated legal world all to itself, in fact the ads lie—most intellectual property law specialists tend to be very knowledgeable in one or two of these areas and only passingly familiar with the others. For instance, it is common for patent lawyers to be far more knowledgeable in that area than in trademark law, even though both patents and trademarks involve practice before the PTO. Similarly, some lawyers specialize in trademarks and do little or no patent work. The point of knowing this, of course, is that you want a trademark lawyer who really knows trademarks, not someone willing to brush up on trademarks at your expense. When you call on the intellectual property specialist, ask these questions:
- What percentage of your practice involves trademark work?
- Are you a member of the International Trademark Association or the American Intellectual Property Law Association?
The first inquiry will help you find a true specialist in this area, while the second will help you find a lawyer who is curious enough about the subject of trademarks to join these associations of trademark specialists.
Find a Lawyer Who Is Willing to Acknowledge Your Competence
In addition to satisfying yourself that a lawyer is competent, you want to find someone who is reasonably congenial to work with. You don’t need us to tell you that lawyers tend to look down on laypersons when it comes to the lawyer’s area of expertise. Which means that many of the lawyers you initially encounter are likely to be turned off by your expertise. Fortunately, however, some lawyers are willing to respect their clients’ knowledge and know how to work with it rather than against it. It is this type of lawyer you should be looking for. You can find a lawyer who isn’t intimidated by a competent client if you:
- explain over the phone that you have wish to do some of the work
- articulate exactly what you want the lawyer to do, and
- carefully monitor the lawyer’s reaction.
If you get a whiff of, “Don’t tell me what you need, I’m the lawyer,” go on to the next name on the list. If the response appears to respect your self-help efforts and admits the possibility that you are a competent human being, make an appointment.
Find a Lawyer Who Is Honest and Conscientious
If you are just seeking advice, then you needn’t worry much about the lawyer’s character. But if you are looking for someone to represent you, the human being you are dealing with becomes paramount. The best analytical trademark lawyer in the world can bring you to financial and emotional ruin if he or she lacks the ability to understand your needs and to represent you with your best interests in mind. Honesty While some would argue that there’s no such thing as an honest lawyer, we maintain that it is possible to have honest dealings with your lawyer. Start by clearly understanding that the lawyer’s financial interest—to run up lots of billable hours over a period of time—is the opposite of yours—which is to arrive at a fast, cost-efficient, and reasonably livable resolution of the problem. Once you understand this, you’ll also understand that it is essential that you and your lawyer agree up front about what the lawyer is to do and the amount of control you are to have over the lawyer’s activities.
Find a Lawyer Who Is Open to Dispute Resolution Alternatives
In recent years, many lawyers have discovered that there often are better ways to resolve disputes than the old “haul ’em into court” technique. The two most common of these alternative approaches are arbitration and mediation. When you search for an attorney, make sure that the attorney is fully up to speed on these private, fast, inexpensive, and often successful techniques and is willing to help you explore them as a potential way to solve your problem.
A number of websites offer listings for domestic and international trademark lawyers, including: