Today, I am joined by Rukayatu “Ruky” Tijani, a trademark attorney, and founder of the Firm for the Culture. Ruky has extensive experience as an intellectual property attorney from her time at a top litigation firm in Silicon Valley and draws on that knowledge to help her clients, many of whom are creatives, to protect their intellectual property.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode. Ruky defines the many forms of trademarks in our conversation and shares several useful examples to learn from. She also shares the most common mistakes that creatives make along with her advice to avoid them. Tune in to find out what it means when a trademark is rejected on the basis of Failure to Function, and what this has meant for the phrase Black Lives Matter.
We loved having Ruky on the show and we urge you to check out this informative conversation on how to protect your creativity!
What You’ll Learn On This Episode:
- [03:45] How Firm for the Culture finds, and helps their clients with trademark disputes.
- [07:32] Ruky’s definition of a trademark and what exactly it protects
- [08:40] The power that a trademark has to influence what you spend your money on
- [11:00] How trademark law functions when it comes to dance moves on digital platforms
- [12:45] How Firm for the Culture is helping creatives of color understand the power of trademarks to protect their creative intellectual property
- [15:18] How to monetize IP and why it results in intergenerational wealth
- [16:48] How trademark law protects the party who commercializes a product, not the inventor
- [17:16] How trademarks can be valuable before a company is making money
- [19:53] The uses and limitations of Legal Zoom when it comes to trademarking intellectual property
- [23:29] The new NCAA ruling that allows college athletes to profit off their likeness and how that will affect black athletes
- [25:58] What it means when a trademark is rejected on the basis of failure to function
- [26:26] How Black Lives Matter is impacted by rejection on the basis of Failure to Function
- [28:27] How quality control provisions protect your brand from being used in a way that tarnishes its reputation
- [30:31] The importance of switching from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset
- [33:57] How to get in touch with Firm for the Culture and access their free guides
- Learn more about the TRANSCEND Community
Connect With Us:
“One of the beautiful things about trademarks, especially in licensing agreements is that you have what’s called ‘quality control provisions’. For any reason, you can actually stop somebody from using your brands, including if they, you know, make your brand look bad, if they end up being racist per se, right? It doesn’t have to be like, they just infringe upon your mark. If they start cursing or if you find them or if they are found drunk in an alleyway and that makes public news, you can stop them from using your brand, right? Because of the association, it could dilute or bring down the value of your trademark. Imagine if Black Lives Matter was able to stop certain organizations, including organizations that were not naturally aligned with their mission from utilizing the term Black Lives Matter.”
[0:00:50.1] AW: You’re listening to the Transcend Podcast. I’m your host, Asha Wilkerson, an attorney by training and an educator at heart. This podcast is all about empowering you to build a business and leave a legacy. Here’s the thing, the wealth gap in America is consistently increasing and while full-time entrepreneurship is not for everyone, even a side hustle could change your financial landscape if you’re intentional about using your business to build wealth. I’ve run my own law firm for over 10 years, and in that time, I’ve helped countless California businesses go from idea to six figures. On this podcast, we talk about what it truly takes to build a sustainable business and find financial freedom. Let’s dive in.
[0:01:36.1] AW: Hey you all, welcome back to another episode of Transcend the Podcast, I’m super excited about this episode that you are about to listen to, we are here with one of my favorite colleagues, Rukayatu Tijani, who is a trademark attorney and founder chief creator and chief esquire officer of Firm for the Culture. Mr. Johnny founded Firm for the Culture after years of serving as an intellectual property attorney in the Silicon Valley office of the top litigation firm in the country.
Firm for the Culture was born out of Miss Tijani’s passion for the law, social impact and social entrepreneurship and strategically, scaling to create sustainable change. Drawing on her extensive as an intellectual property attorney in the Silicon Valley office of the top litigation law firm in the country, Ruky, provides extensive detail oriented and comprehensive trademark education strategy and application services to a host of social entrepreneurs and innovative founders and accessible flat free prices.
Miss Tijani is a proud Nigerian-American, first generation professional from the projects of Brooklyn and is a graduate of UC Berkley School of Law and a member of the New York and California State Bars. She loves to cook, sing and hike and I cannot wait for you to listen to this awesome conversation. Stay tuned.
[0:02:56.8] AW: All right, well welcome to The Transcend Podcast, how are you doing today?
[0:03:01.7] RT: Hi Asha, I’m doing pretty well, I’m excited to talk with another boss in the field, how are you?
[0:03:08.5] AW: I am great, thank you so much. As you know, this podcast is all about empowering black folks and brown folks breaking down the law, breaking down business, breaking down finances so that we can build a business and leave a legacy.
We’ve talked about intellectual property and trademarks a little bit before but I specifically invited you on because one, your firm name is awesome, Firm for the Culture and two, you specialized in trademarks, so you focus exclusively on trademarks. Can you tell us a little bit about what does that really mean and who are the clients that you look to help?
[0:03:45.8] RT: Yeah, for sure. Firm for the Culture is a virtual law firm, an innovative virtual law firm, specifically designed to help social entrepreneurs and diverse founders protect their brands as they scale their impact. A lot of what we do is informed by my story, right? I’m sure you’ve already introduced it but I want to share a little bit about it. I’m a proud first-generation college graduate, proud first-generation law school graduate from the projects of Brooklyn New York. Went to UC Berkley School of Law. After a few years of becoming an attorney, I wanted to quit the law entirely.
That’s because as the first in my family to attend law school, I really didn’t know what I didn’t know about navigating that space. So that, along with just the abysmal lack of diversity, made me want to quit. Mentors and friends and some divine intervention I’d say, convinced me not to quit. I ended up staying in the field and joining the number one litigation firm in the country as an IP attorney in the Silicon Valley.
I loved it, I loved reviewing cases and litigating cases regarding copyright, trademark, patent, trade secrets. Again, when I was in these meetings, specifically with startups and VC’s and the darlings of the Silicon Valley, I too saw that it was just simply lacking in diversity. Diversity in background, diversity in thoughts, diversity in just the amazing contributions that we as black and brown folk make to the culture consistently. I left and I took a leap of faith.
Firm for the culture really dabbles as our love language to the culture to creativity and to folks who are in social impact. Essentially, it allows us to really geek out over things like trademarks and Meg thee Stallion or LeBron James and intellectual property and even the dance craze is going on with TikTok right now, how black creatives are kind of protesting that allows us to geek out over things like that.
Also provide what’s oftentimes seen as an esoteric field of legal information to people in an innovative and creative and accessible way so we can help them understand the importance of their intellectual property as they continue to make their mark on the world. That’s a little bit about who we serve and who we are.
[0:05:57.3] AW: Yeah, I absolutely love that, I love your story. I can relate to just having felt burnout and feeling like firm culture is cool and then also really not cool and just having experienced this myself when I was representing folks in criminal court and I’m standing in the line of attorneys and the sheriff comes over to me and says, “You know, can I help you?” as if I’m not supposed to be there and I know exactly what’s going on and I’m telling him, “No. You cannot help me.”
Yeah, that fit like even when you have the skill, it is important. The community really does matter, who you surround yourself with matters because it’s more than just having the skills, also feeling like not just that you belong but also, that it’s not in a front to your essence to be in this position.
[0:06:41.5] RT: Absolutely. Not only do we deserve a seat at the table, black creatives, brown creatives, diverse creatives deserve a seat and also, the means to monetize the creativity that they’re contributing to the culture. I think I say this unapologetically in any space that I’m in, I think that black and brown creatives are the most creative people.
We set the trend, we provide much of what the United States is pumping out to other countries around the world. It behooves us to really take the steps to protect our creativity as we make our mark on the literal world.
[0:07:17.5] AW: Yeah, I absolutely agree. Before I get into TikTok, you had mentioned that and I was thinking that before you said it. Can you just explain to the audience, to the listeners exactly what can be trademarked? What is a trademark, what does it protect?
[0:07:32.7] RT: Yeah, a trademark at its core is a word, a phrase, a logo or a design that’s used to differentiate your business from others. That’s a lot of everything and nothing at all, right? Let’s think about a specific example. I love coffee and if I don’t make my morning cup of coffee, I may go to Starbucks and when I’m at Starbucks, I get the cup with the green logo on it.
When I’m walking outside, somebody may look at my cup and without even tasting the product that’s in my cup, will know in a split second that the product that’s in my cup comes from an organization that has its headquarters in Seattle, Washington. They may make decisions as to whether I’m a good person or whether I should be supporting that organization, all based on the product that’s in my hand.
They also know just by looking at the product that’s in my hand that it doesn’t come from McDonald’s because it doesn’t have the golden arches, which is McDonald’s trademark. They also know that it’s not from Pete’s because the cup is not brown or that it’s not from Dunkin Donuts because the cup doesn’t have the orange and green double D logo. They know all of that in a split second, simply by looking at the cup that’s in my hand.
That’s really what a trademark is, it is the mark of an organization that can really dictate customer loyalty, it can really dictate profit and value of the company and that can really determine if a person purchases, said good or service or decides to purchase a competitor’s good or service. Trademarks can also protect logos, slogans, sometimes, I also say 3D trademarks such as trade dress if we look at the red under the Louboutin or Louboutin heels, that’s also federally protected, sounds. Like the 20th Century Fox sound like, [sings 0:09:16.2] that sound is also federally protected.
Trademarks also protect colors like Tiffany Blue, that nice robin blue that’s sold in association with jewelry. Trademarks can protect pretty much different faces of a business’ brand. Another example, Nike. You know, trademarks protect the name Nike, it protects the slogan, “Just Do It” and it also protects the swoosh symbol, all three different faces of the same business or brand.
[0:09:59.0] AW: Yeah, that’s super helpful. I think people often think about just the logo but I really want people to know exactly what trademark and then just IP in general, protects or gives you right to solidifies your rights too because as we mentioned, coming back to TikTok and to this industry now or this time now where creators are really celebrated and how black and brown folks, especially black folks in America have really perpetuated culture and distributed culture.
Let me rephrase that, we have created culture and it is distributed by the United States out to other parts of the world, right? We’re so rarely credited for the creativity that we have. I really am grateful to have this conversation not that I have all of the answers but to get people to start thinking about, what are you doing already that you may be able to protect, solidify the rights to and license to make some money off of, right? You don’t, yeah.
[0:11:00.1] RT: Absolutely. I love that we’re discussing that because this is not new, people taking dance moves and other creative creations from black and brown creators. In fact, a similar story is what prompted me to start Firm for the Culture in the first place. I was sitting in my beautiful, shiny office in the Silicon Valley and I remember coming across a video game. I believe it was Fortnite and they took like, I think they took the Millie wap or they took all these dances that were created by us without compensating the originators of said art.
Now, there’s a question as to whether dance moves can be federally copyrighted or whether it can be sorted at the United States Copyright office but in any event, what it stirred in me was definitely a sense of rage and anger that the idea that something that we took time, effort and energy and to some extent, finances, to really push into the world could simply be taken from us and then in the trademark space, there are definitely brands that are not naturally owned by black and brown folks but have the black and brown kind of cultural underpinning.
I remember like, there’s brands like The Glow Up. That’s not owned by a black or brown organization and other brands that are not owned by black or brown organizations and trademark law kind of protects that because trademark law doesn’t privilege origination, it privileges use in a commercial manner. Even if we have a brand that goes viral or a hashtag that goes viral, unless you stick that word on a shirt, put it on a podcast, sell it with some water, sell it with a soda or something, it’s not going to be federally protected.
Really having the conversation to kind of push creatives to understand how their creative contributions to the culture can be protected is really why Firm for the Culture came into being today so I love what’s going on at TikTok. I love the fact that people aren’t dancing to – although I love Meg Thee Stallion’s new song, That Girl or That Stuff, I love it. I love the fact that people are taking a virtual seat and saying, “No, we’re not going to contribute unless we get adequately compensated.”
[0:13:16.3] AW: I mean, that’s even a shift too, right? I mean, I think especially in the arts and the creative industry, there’s this belief that permeates a lot of artist that well, I’m just going to be a starving artist, there’s nothing else for me to do because I know plenty of musicians, I know plenty of dancers, I know plenty of playwrights who are fantastic but never earned any money and so I think that people don’t even think about how they can monetize their craft because it’s just not being done in our communities at the level that it’s being done in white communities.
We just don’t know. I feel like we just don’t know. I have a friend who is a writer, a published author and all that stuff and maybe she’s like, “I think I’m just going to be a starving author” I’m like, “No, let’s actually look at how” –
[0:14:00.5] RT: The devil is a liar.
[0:14:01.7] AW: Okay. I hope she’s listening to this podcast.
[0:14:05.1] RT: Not on my watch.
[0:14:06.5] AW: Right, absolutely. Let me tell you all too who are listening that I remember reading this contract. No, I was talking to a web designer and she wanted to do a business consultation with me and so we’re talking about her practice and she designed websites for her clients but she retained the rights to the website. She basically created them for her clients and then licensed this site to the client and if the client wanted to purchase it later to be able to change and update, they needed to pay her like I don’t know, an extra $3,000 to get it.
I was shocked but I was also like, wow, that’s what people are really out here doing and it’s kind of – I mean, I was going to say, it’s genius, it’s definitely one way to do business but it just got me thinking about, what is all these stuff that we give away or that we only make people pay for one time but they get to continue to use over and over and over and over again and how can we start to think about, “This is the product that I have made, let me think about it, earning money or generating revenue for me for the next 10 years.”
[0:15:18.4] RT: Absolutely. I love that. Because, when it comes to monetizing our intellectual property, IP is generational wealth, right? One of their big questions that we often get is, “How do I actually monetize my IP?” and I like to talk about one of the tried and true examples of the yesteryear like Jack Daniels. We see that drink all over, in the supermarkets, at the club, what have you.
It’s a famous whiskey that’s amassed more than 2.7 billion dollars in its lifetime. It actually came into being with significant help, if not, the absolute work of a slave. The slave Nearest Green, right? Who taught Jack Daniels everything that he knew yet Green is not, he was the preverbal definition of starving artist, he was starving, he was owned, right?
He received neither compensation nor credit for this contribution that is still playing out over 250 years later. That type of story is not limited to yesteryear, right? Large corporations, they run to the USPTO to trademark and gain ownership over brands that we created and one of the things I like to call it frankly is trademark justification because they take our brands, they make it pretty and they sell it without giving us the full credit for it.
Even though we provided that adequate good will. Then they may send a lot of us a cease and desist to stop using it, which they can very much do because that’s what trademark law protects. Again, it privileges, not necessarily the people who create the invention or the brand or the logo or what have you, it protects those who use it in a commercial manner.
That’s really again, why we’re going into this work and informing people of how valuable their contributions to the culture are. One of the things that we say at Firm for the Culture is, when you protect the brand, you protect the culture, let’s protect the culture.
[0:17:16.4] AW: Yeah, absolutely. I’m just thinking of a couple of different examples of how a trademark or intellectual property can be valuable, even if the company isn’t yet operating in the black, meaning the company may not be profitable itself but the brand may have some value that is tied to but separate.
I was talking to a friend of mine, another intellectual property attorney and he was telling me this story about this company, this donut shop that was started as a bread shop, something like that, that was starting up in San Jose and as IP attorney, he went and protected the intellectual property and there was a company from Canada that had a New York attorney, that reached out to him and said, “Hey, we’re in a similar space, we really like the brand, we want to buy your trademark from you.”
The company was getting ready, the San Jose company hadn’t yet started but had already registered their trademark and then because of COVID, they couldn’t get the footing that they wanted but that told the attorney, my friend, “Okay, let me go and expand the protections because there’s some interest over here and we’re not going to sell yet but we’re going to build this company with the idea that this brand, this trademark is valuable and put some energy into that so that if one day, they want to exit because maybe it’s profitable, right? Or maybe they can keep the same product and change the name, then they have another stream of income that they can bring to the table.”
[0:18:49.2] RT: Absolutely and to that, I say Legal Zoom could never –
[0:18:52.8] AW: Could never, ever, ever, we try to tell you all.
[0:18:55.6] RT: Legal Zoom could never. That is a type of strategy that a really good and culturally competent attorney can help you really roll out. When we’re engaging our clients at our Firm for the Culture, we’re not doing it simply with an eye towards getting people registered. We’re doing with an eye towards helping people monetize their intellectual property through license agreement. Assign their intellectual property through assignment agreements.
You know, have a federal underpinning to sue somebody in federal court all around the country, if they need to sue copycats in federal court and also, you know parts, the large parts of their application if they want to license shoes to one company and license shirts to another company, they can do that because we had the foresight at the beginning before we even file the application to determine what could happen if a brand like theirs scale significantly.
[0:19:53.4] AW: Yeah, I appreciate that explanation because people ask all the time, “Well, can’t I just go to Legal Zoom?” one, to form their business and two, to get their IP and I always tell people no, right? Because even though there is so much stuff that’s on Google and Legal Zoom will make you think that you are a pseudo attorney, the attorneys have actually studied this stuff and not only tell you or not only fill out the application but like you just mentioned, create the strategy behind it.
The last thing you want to do probably is fill out an application and be so narrowly sighted because you only know what you know and then miss out on all of these other opportunities that someone who is an expert in this field could have helped you capitalize on.
[0:20:35.5] RT: I agree and I –
[0:20:37.8] AW: Research, use your experts.
[0:20:39.1] RT: Exactly and I tell clients and you know, I would be remiss if I act it like no one could theoretically be successful, right? If your sole goal is to get a registration at the USPTO then you can likely be successful. Many people have used Legal Zoom to get a registration but it ultimately comes down to what your overall strategy is. I’ve had a lot of clients who’ve messed up, you know, they are falling at Legal Zoom by significantly narrowing down the goods and services that they wanted to sell.
They only based it on what they were selling currently, so a lot of people who come out with clothing brands, the first thing that they are selling are t-shirts, right? But they don’t really – but they forget that they could also put in that class sneakers. They could put in that class scarfs, they could put in that class hats, gloves, jackets, coats and that’s where you start talking about the generational wealth. That’s where you start getting into licensing agreement and you could probably license your jackets to Uniqlo.
License your sneakers to Nike and so all from that one category of goods and services and that’s the conversation that we engage with our clients when they come to Firm for the Culture. We ask them the dream, we ask them, “What are you going to do in the next few years?” yet, shut the entire universe of possibility and then from there, strategize as to what classes or what industries to go forward with before you even file that, before you even file the application at the USPTO because once you file it, it’s public.
The good, the bad and the ugly can be publicly disclosed but when we are having our strategy session, it’s all protected by attorney-client privilege communications.
[0:22:18.8] AW: Yeah, it’s so important. Again, just tapping back into generational wealth, which is exactly what the point of this podcast is and the point of both of our firms is trying to – are trying to help people create generational wealth. You are not thinking about just right now, you are thinking about down the line, right? You have to think about Hilton brand hotels. You know, it’s a brand, you have an expectation in terms of the quality, the experience.
You know, Paris Hilton, I don’t even know why I’m thinking about her but Paris Hilton is working in the hotels, right? Her grandfather is the one who created it but his children and grandchildren and children’s-children’s-children are going to benefit from the foresight that Conrad Hilton had to build this empire, which started with a hotel, right? Your dream, your business is not too small to do that with so definitely seek wise council, find the people that need to be in your orbit and let them help you dream bigger.
It doesn’t mean you have to take all the steps right away but at least if you have a plan, you’ll know what you need to do next to get to where you’re trying to go.
[0:23:26.0] RT: Absolutely.
[0:23:28.2] AW: Definitely think about that.
[0:23:29.2] RT: Yeah.
[0:23:29.6] AW: Yeah, so okay, we’re going to touch on this subject, which neither one of us know that much about but just thinking about the NCAA and the new rules about college athletes being able to use their likeness. How important do you think this is specifically for black folks because there is so many black athletes that are excluded in school and beyond?
[0:23:55.9] RT: Yeah, you know at the time of this recording, Simone Biles just got out of the Olympics, right? Then you have Naomi Osaka and you have Sha’Carri Richardson all receiving, all experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly with being an international celebrity athlete, right? One of the things even though I would say this is not within trademarks, one of the things that I just started thinking of as these athletes get bigger is understanding that just because I can make money off their likeness doesn’t mean that every form or version of their likeness is theirs to own, right?
That goes particularly to copyrights particularly if our athletes are famous. I remember recalling Justin Beiber was reportedly sued by a paparazzi for uploading a photo of himself to his Instagram. That’s the intersectionality of copyright and rights to publicity and right to privacy. Can I as a photographer take a photo of you and own that photo and stop you, the subject of the photo from utilizing the photo? Yes, I can. Even though your likeness is highly monetizable, understand that paparazzis get paid for a reason by essentially profiting off of your likeness, so what do you do then?
I like to say get the Beyoncé effect, control who takes your photos. You can control who takes your photos and also another thing, within the realm of trademarks I would say to the extent that you have a famous brand or a famous slogan or a famous catch phrase that goes with your brand, then definitely take steps sooner rather than later to file the trademark registration because at the USPTO, there’s been an increasing type of rejection from – in the United States over certain brand names that have gotten too famous or “too commonplace.”
That rejection is called the failure to function rejection, and at its core, it stands for the principal that if everyone essentially is allowed to use the marketing because it got too famous and commonplace and larger because you fail to protect and police the mark before it got super famous, no one including you should be allowed to own the mark and this has happened to Meg thee Stallion with Hot Girls Summer and Taco Tuesday with Lebron James and “Okurr” by Cardi B.
It’s also happened with Black Lives Matter, you know, that mark can’t be owned according to the USPTO by Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi even though they were the originators of the brand back in 2013 after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the acquittal of George Zimmerman. I am saying that to say as you continue growing in your celebrity, in your status, if there is a slogan that you use, if there is a brand that you use, if there are certain colors that you use, those can all be protected with intellectual property and speak with wise counsel to make sure those things are protected for that generational wealth.
[0:27:04.4] AW: Absolutely, so a few weeks ago I did an episode with another IP attorney and we were just talking about what comes first, LLC or IP, right? A lot of people ask that question. A lot of people ask all the time like, “When do I need to form the business” and/or people go to the other side and say, “I want to protect all of my ideas.” You can’t protect an idea, you got to actually have something that is tangible or represent something sort of in motion, in action but I don’t know if it is ever too early.
If you’re not sure, go and talk to an intellectual property attorney, a trademark attorney, a copyright attorney, a patent attorney so at least you have an expert opinion about what the right timing is because can you imagine now with all the folks with BLM, Black Lives Matter all over their shirts, which is great but the folks who created it can’t monetize that because now it is just a common part of our language and so it’s up for everybody to use.
Imagine if they could monetize it and then raise more money for the cause not even that it has to be something that they are personally benefiting from and they could if they wanted to, right? But it is a social movement that could continue to raise money into perpetuity as long as people started kept purchasing, printing and purchasing BLM shirts, BLM signs that could be sort of almost a passive revenue stream for the organization, for the social cause and it’s not.
[0:28:27.7] RT: Not only can it serve as a sworn in terms of monetizing, it also serves as a shield. It can stop others from utilizing it. One of the beautiful things about trademarks especially in licensing agreements is that you have what’s called quality control provisions. For any reason, you can actually stop somebody from using your brands including if they make their brand look bad, if they end up being racists per se, right?
It doesn’t have to be they just infringed upon your market. If they start cursing or if you find them – if they are found drunk in an alleyway and that makes public news, you can stop them from using your brand, right? Because of the association, it could dilute or bring down the value of your trademark. Imagine if Black Lives Matter was able to stop certain organizations including organizations that were not initially aligned with their mission from utilizing the term Black Lives Matter, right?
In fact, that’s what could have happened in 2020 after the shooting death – not shooting death, after the death of George Floyd, so because Black Lives Matter did not trademark their brands or attempt to trademark their brands, until about six or until about five or six years later and they got the failure to function rejection, in 2020 another organization called Black Lives Matter Foundation, which is very different from Black Lives Matter Global Network, the real Black Lives Matter, setup a Go Fund Me page.
That Go Fund Me page was literally setup by a guy from Sta. Clarita, California who has a PO Box and over $4.4 million was misdirected to the wrong Black Lives Matter organization because the original Black Lives Matter organization cannot stop from a trademark perspective the fake Black Lives Matter organization. Just imagine how much money was essentially lost and how much money could have gone to the movement to abolish prisons or abolish the police or set up equitable ways of engaging criminal justice, right?
That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the importance of protecting the brand and protecting the culture.
[0:30:31.5] AW: Yeah, absolutely. We’re just flipping the switch you all, we are switching from that scarcity mindset of, “I don’t have enough money. I don’t know how to do it” to abundance, we’re going to figure it out. You got experts you know that you can call now and also just thinking about instead of being just to consumer, how do I become a producer and really own the rights that I have.
Whether you have a restaurant or you are a course creator or you are a music producer, let’s talk about that for a minute because I think some of us know but we don’t really truly understand how that works and who owns the rights to the music, right? I always think about Prince wanting to own his catalog and Michael Jackson wanting to own his catalog and you know, that being a big fight because what most folks don’t know is that usually the record label owns the rights to the music and it’s the artist that is getting paid one-time upfront to produce the song.
Then the royalties, you think about I just heard Michael Jordan’s, This is How We Do It, on the radio the other day, that song has got to be like 30 years old at this point, at least 25 years old, right? That song is still played and I’m not sure if Michael Jordan –
[0:31:43.4] RT: Maybe come back or poison all of those songs, yeah.
[0:31:46.6] AW: All of those songs, right? It’s important to make sure that you own your contribution, your art that you put out there so you can keep earning for years and years to come. I guess maybe it was The Isley Brothers and who was that versus with Isley Brothers and – oh, Earth, Wind and Fire I think it was, right? They were talking about on there that one of the Earth, Wind and Fire songs was played, a portion of it was played during a halftime, Super Bowl halftime show, right?
One of the Isley Brothers or Earth, Wind and Fire band members was like, “Did we give permission for them to use this song?” and now Earth, Wind and Fire has been around for 40, 50 years probably, right? We don’t know, so they got on the phone with their manager and got compensation for that even though it had already aired, it had already been broadcast and someone had used just a portion of their song without getting permission and compensation.
[0:32:47.3] RT: Absolutely. I love to hear it.
[0:32:51.2] AW: There’s definitely power, yeah and think about intellectual property rights are rights just like you own your car, just like you, I don’t know, own your computer, a house, right? You can gift them to somebody, you can protect them, you can put them into a trust, your business can own them, you can own them personally.
I’m not telling you that you have to go out and create a bunch of stuff, what I want you to know is that if you are creating whatever it is that you’re creating, reach out and talk to an intellectual property attorney to see what the possibilities are for you to license, use, sell and make money off of the content that you are already doing because we’re missing a lot of opportunities and I want all of us to one have generational wealth but two, to continue to make money off of this stuff that we have already done because that gets into that passive income and that’s really where you start to build that wealth.
[0:33:46.9] RT: Yes, I could not agree more.
[0:33:48.6] AW: For folks who would love to reach out to you and take advantage of your services or at least have a consultation, what is the best way for them to find you?
[0:33:57.3] RT: Yeah, for sure. You can go to firmfortheculture.com and if you want to book a call with us, firmfortheculture.com/book and we give out a lot of free information, a lot of free resources, a lot of free guides. I want to kind of just touch a little bit on the LLC versus trademark. It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be and, right? In Firm for the Culture for instance, we take – we, our comprehensive searches are really, really in depth.
You are talking about weeks, if not sometimes months to really understand the comp – it’s really understand whether your mark can go forward at the USPTO. Even before we file the trademark, you can have that conversation to determine if the mark is even one that you can own while you are talking to ASHA about forming your LLC, so by the time we file for the trademark, you have your LLC with ASHA, you have your trademark application in hand with Firm for the Culture and now you can bring it to the USPTO.
It doesn’t have to be a, “Do I do the LLC first or do I do the trademark first?” it can be a complimentary conversation and with that said, even if you don’t want to take that step immediately, we do provide a lot of free webinars. If you go to our website, firmfortheculture.com, sign up for our email list, we provide a free trademark guide to every person who signs up for the email list and we also inform them as to when we do those free webinars, which include searches at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We actually teach you how to clear your mark at the USPTO for free, FREE.99 so definitely sign up.
[0:35:42.6] AW: FREE.99 is always good. You know, get your information, do your research but you know, make sure you are getting your information from the right folks. I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “Oh, well my friend from this kind of business and I don’t think I need to do it like you told me.” I’m like, “Okay. Well, what is your friend, an expert in this?” “No” and then come to find out, the friend has a totally different kind of license that the person doesn’t.
All that to say, make sure that you get information from the right people because it will affect your business in the long run and we want to see you win. We don’t benefit if you don’t win. We want to see you win, we want to support you along the way.
[0:36:20.2] RT: Yes, we very literally do it for the culture.
[0:36:23.3] AW: Amen, yeah. All right my dear, thank you so much for joining us. For all of you who are listening, let us know how you feel about this episode. Leave us some questions, we can pop back on and answer and we will see you in next week’s episode.
[0:36:39.2] RT: Thank you so much Asha, I appreciate this.
[0:36:41.4] AW: You are welcome.
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