Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Official!

In August, 2012 we began the process to apply for some federally registered trademarks. 

For those of you who are interested, here's a quick explanation regarding the use of a ™ (trademark) designation versus a ® (registered trademark) designation:

A trademark is a symbol, word, or words established by use or legally registered as representing a company or product.

You can use ™ on any mark that you wish to designate as a trademark. No registration is required, and in most states this will actually give you some "common law" trademark rights. Anyone can assert that anything is their trademark but it does not necessarily mean that the user has exclusive rights nor is it federally protected.

You can use the ® designation only after you obtain a federal trademark registration from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  This process requires filing an application with a fee and establishing that the owner is entitled to exclusive use of the mark associated with particular goods and services. During the application process you may NOT use the ® designation as it is illegal. You must continue to use nothing or the ™ designation until the federal registration is issued.

Sources: and

I'd wanted to do this for some time but didn't know where to begin. When we lived in Los Angeles, I'd spoken with a lawyer through the non-profit organization, California Lawyers for the Arts and had received some great free counsel. That said, it sounded very expensive, time consuming, and complicated. As there were plenty of other things needing my attention with this card company, I put it aside for many years.

Then I began seeing ads online for, an organization founded by the well-known O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro, and thought I'd give them a call to see what kind of services they offered and, if available, what it would take to acquire some registered trademarks.

Turns out it's not very complicated or expensive so I proceeded to move forward with Legal Zoom and their trademark registration process.

I knew I wanted to register the word "Maginating" but also knew I didn't want to use "letterpress + design" any longer, let alone register those words. We were moving away from letterpress and into alternative printing methods so now was an appropriate time to substitute another phrase - something that described a "bigger-picture" company. I'd written down "a make-believe company" in my sketchbook several years before and really liked it. I thought the phrase best described who Maginating is with the same kind of whimsy our designs already exhibited, so we applied to register that phrase as well.

Throughout this process we, as a company, were claiming exclusive rights to the words "Maginating" and the phrase "a make-believe company" within the United States and the paper industry. But even though we were making this claim, in order to obtain a federal registration, we had to prove we were the first  and only company to use these words/phrases within our respective industry. We had to prove that no one else owned the rights to this collection of words.

I was pretty sure "Maginating" was available since it was a word I made up as a little kid. I'd use it like a verb, a way to describe the use of one's imagination. While I'd never heard the word used by anyone else before, that didn't eliminate the fact that someone might have made it up and was already using it somewhere else in the US. This registration process would officially prove who "owned" the word. The phrase, "a make-believe company," however, was not something I felt confident about. I figured someone else must have registered it already, but I liked the phrase so much I was willing to take the chance.

In late August of 2013, we received official paperwork from the USPTO that both the word "Maginating" and "a make-believe company" (with the hyphen) were officially, and most importantly, federally, ours.