This is part 4 of the Fashion Startup Checklist. A series of 21 steps dedicated to helping you launch your fashion brand as smartly and efficiently as possible.
Now that you’ve brainstormed, proven your concept AND chosen a name, it’s time to double-check and make sure you’re on the right track.
Why Evaluate Defensibility
Maybe you’ve decided on a name, but you haven’t really done ALL the research yet to figure out if it’s really sustainable. We touched on this in the last video, but let’s go a little deeper this time into exactly why and how to pressure test the name you’ve chosen.
The whole point of this is to save you time and money in the long run and to help you build a brand that is defensible against competitors. Think of your brand like your castle. You don’t want to build it out of cardboard in a crowded square. You want it built of stone and high on a hill with a clear view of anyone coming.
Maybe it sounds silly, but it’s actually true. Having clear space all around your brand makes your concept much easier to establish and to defend. And know this… if you become successful, you WILL have to defend your spot.
For that reason, you’ll need to ok with the fact that maybe somebody just got to where you want to be first. It happens all the time. But, knowing the importance of owning your own space, you need to be flexible enough to accommodate this setback and have alternate plans.
How to Evaluate Defensibility
So, how do you know if your brand is defensible?
First, as mentioned, first check for the domain name and ALL similar names. Figure out who’s in your space, what they’re doing there and if there’s any conflict of interest. If your name is Vicky and you want to start a lingerie company called Vicky’s Secret… DON’T. You might think it’s clever, but it’s going to cut your own throat in the end. It’s not different enough to give you space to work, and if you do manage to make some headway, the big dog is going to take you OUT.
In fact, I don’t recommend any kind of clever play on another brand- or any kind of witty reference to something that is privately owned or controlled.
Go then to Etsy, Pinterest, Shopify and ALL the social media platforms and search to find out who is playing in your sandbox. Make a spreadsheet and list who they all are, what they do or sell, where they’re located, when they started, and how big they are.
Some of them MAY have patents or trademarks for some of the ideas you have. Do a search in your market to see exactly what your competitors may have already legally established.
If someone already took your business name, or registered a trademark, it might be best to leave it alone. Or, you might see that the registration expired and there’s an opportunity available.
All this stuff gets a bit complicated and I am NOT offering legal advice here. But in general, when it comes to trademarks and patents, you need to be doing something unique enough to qualify for protection. With trademarks, you also need to actually be occupying the space. You can’t just take a trademark halfway across the world and expect every new business to honor it- especially if you aren’t using it or working in that market. Trademarks are like territory. They’re something that you protect by using them.
All the more reason to evaluate defensibility, pick a defensible position, with plenty of clear space around you, and build your defenses!
Resources & Links
Each part of the world offers different resources for researching and defending your trademarks and brand properties.
If it’s a patent you’re after, just keep in mind that very little in the world of fashion will qualify for a patent. It will need to have patentable features and you’ll probably want some help from a patent attorney to get it all set up properly.
In the USA, it’s fairly easy to check patents and trademarks online at the US Patent and Trademark office at USPTO.gov.
To check business name registrations, like for LLC’s or C-corps, check with the business registration office in the place where you plan to register your business.