Starting a business is the American Dream. For many of us, the notion that we can develop an idea, skill, or product and sell it on the open market is the pinnacle of success.
More, small businesses drive the economy, employing the majority of the workforce. Even politicians who disagree on everything all agree that helping small business owners is crucial to the success of the nation.
Trademark attorney Jeremy Peter Green has understood the value of small businesses his entire life. In fact, you could say it’s in his blood. Green has a family history of small business owners and he himself started out as an entrepreneur at a young age.
“I come from an Ashkenazi Jewish background. My great-grandfather owned a little market in The Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was a lot of entrepreneurship – maybe three generations back in my family,” Green told me.
“I used to get autographs from athletes and politicians when I was in college and then sell them on eBay for extra money. And then I started buying web domains. And I bought a whole bunch of domains for the 2016 presidential election … One of the domains I bought back in 2011 was ClintonKaine.com … And I ended up selling it through a broker. I was always hustling.”
While Green loved the excitement and money-making potential of having a small business as a kid, he soon found another important value to having a small business – freedom. Green has Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder in which he often has uncontrollable muscle contractions, eye blinking, and cursing which leaves him unable to drive. He did not feel that the constraints of a corporate environment in which he had to conform to someone else’s expectations would be a good fit for him.
“I’m not very compatible with normal offices. I have Tourette Syndrome, which is a neurological condition that pretty much affects everything I do,” he said. “And I find it pretty difficult to sit in an office every day in uncomfortable clothes and stare at the screen for too long. So my freedom is very valuable to me.
“And being able to work for myself has made my quality of life much better.
-Jeremy Peter Green
When Green decided to go to law school, he felt that many of his classmates did not share his interest in small business, but rather were more interested in corporate jobs. “I went to a pretty good law school … and it was a very corporate-focused law school. Nobody really talked about helping people there. Everybody there just wanted to get really high-paying jobs at large law firms to maintain the upper-middle-class lifestyle that most of my classmates grew up with,” Green described. “And so I got kind of jaded in law school – kind of disgusted with the entire profession of law in general. I mean most lawyers – their job is just to help rich people get richer and then take a tiny cut from that.
“They just protect rich people.”
But when Green eventually discovered trademark law, he found a vehicle by which he could help small business owners like him and his great-grandfather. “Trademark law is for protecting people’s brands and logos in association with the marketing of goods or services,” Green explained. “For most businesses, whether they are consultants … or they’re making ceramics, a large portion of their income really comes from the goodwill they built up with customers. If you don’t have a brand identity among the people who buy what you sell, then you don’t really have anything.”
Green actually got his start in trademark law by having to deal with trademark issues with one of his entrepreneurial ventures, “Skinny Squares.” “I was building a lot of my own little businesses. And I had to learn trademark law for my own businesses. Right after law school – Skinny Squares – I filed the trademark myself but it was rejected for a bunch of weird legal reasons. Like it was too descriptive of the product,” he recalled. “So I had to research a lot of trademark law so I could draft the legal brief to argue why Skinny Squares should be allowed to be trademarked.”
This experience made him realize that many small businesses did not have access to good trademark attorneys, because it was too expensive. This made Green determined to develop a trademark practice that focused on providing legal services for those who wanted to trademark their products.
“Because legal services are so expensive, it’s not really that people are choosing between me and small law firms. It’s more that they’re choosing between me and no lawyer. So, either they’re going with Legal Zoom or other legal services company … or they’re trying to file themselves. Or they’re not filing at all. If you can even afford a normal small law firm for trademark help then you’re probably already rich. You’re already in the ownership class,” he described. “So what I’ve really done is just lowered the cost a lot by making very efficient systems for my filing and my searches without sacrificing the actual legal analysis that goes into it. I believe that smaller businesses should have access to the same types of trademark protections that large businesses have.”
And Green has set up shop in the same Lower East Side neighborhood where his great-grandfather had a market. And he is happy that he has found a way to help challenge the economic inequalities that exist in the world, as he helps smaller businesses protect their brand and find the freedom and individuality that he has been able to find himself.
“That has manifested in my work throughout … that issue of people who own everything keeping everyone else out. Criminal law, tax, and immigration law have to be provided for low-income people … but small business legal services are also very important. The equity of small business legal services is important for evening things out for economic mobility,” Green said. “I had no idea that I’d actually be able to do something in law – in the legal field like this.
And I feel extremely lucky that now I can help people do what I’m doing. It’s one of the things that makes me feel good about my job. There’s a large portion of the United States who, there’s nothing wrong with them, but the mainstream culture, the mainstream money-making avenues were not designed for them.
“And now I get to help tiny entrepreneurs – single person, double person teams – strike out on their own and be themselves.”
Green has some helpful tips for anyone interested in getting their work trademarked:
“1. When coming up with a brand name, try to use words that have nothing to do with your product, or even completely made-up words. MUSTANG for cars is good. VERIZON for wireless service is even better. Avoid calling your brand something descriptive like FAST-DRY for paint.
2. Use the TM symbol next to your brand name or logo as early as you'd like. Don't use the ® symbol until you have a fully registered federal trademark.
3. Even if you can't afford legal help at first, do your own search before you launch your brand name. Check Google and the U.S. trademark database for similar names in your general industry.”
Good luck Compulsive entrepreneurs!
— For more information or if you’d like to contact Attorney Jeremy Peter Green, go to www.jpglegal.com.