Sophia Amoruso cites this as One of Her Most Expensive Mistakes
I’d like to begin this blog with an inspirational story from Sophia Amoruso, the founder of #Girlboss and Nasty Gal. Her story really resonates with me, and I’ve actually referenced it many times with my clients. It’s about one of her most expensive mistakes.
That’s right. Someone who is such an incredible businesswoman actually cites something that she chose to do, and she said that a short sighted decision regarding a trademark for #Girlboss is one of her most expensive mistakes.
When Sophia wrote #Girlboss, she immediately applied for a trademark in a variety of categories. So far, she’s doing great! Those categories included online video, podcasts, events, apparel, and accessories. But as soon as she did, her attorney received a cease and desist letter from Hugo Boss, who apparently has a brand called “Boss Woman.” It’s one of their brands, and they were citing that it was “confusingly similar.”
What happened next?, Sophia chose to make a compromise and signed a Settlement Agreement effectively signing away her rights to create any apparel or accessories with the #Girlboss label. In return, Hugo Boss allowed her to register #Girlboss in online videos, events, and podcasts.
Now, you might be thinking that that was a pretty good compromise against such an established brand. But one thing I’d like to remind you is that merchandise is actually an essential element for building brand recognition and community to own your brand—and own it fully. So, going back to Sophia’s story, it turned out that when she fully launched #Girlboss, they couldn’t release any merchandise in any of the categories that they wanted to.
How did that happen? It’s because Sophia signed the rights away (in that Settlement Agreement I mentioned), and she actually cited that it was like signing away her brand’s soul. So, she fought for it. She went back and spent three years and tens of thousands of dollars on intellectual property attorneys to renegotiate the Hugo Boss settlement and get her rights back. But it never happened, and it’s all because of one “short-sighted decision” not to fight for #Girlboss’ mark. In retrospect, Sophia felt as though she could have won.
Owning Your Brand and Advocating for Your Vision
What I want you to learn from it is that there’s so much value in not only being proactive in owning your brand but also advocating for your vision and not settling on something that falls short of fully owning your brand. You should live out that vision. Don’t wait for that moment where you’ll think back in retrospect and have any regrets about what you did not trademark for your brand. Every time we do a consultation, my team emphasizes the importance of owning your brand and advocating for your vision.
Brand Categories or Classes
You may ask, “what trademark classes should I include in my trademark application?” You should include the trademark classes that include the core products or services your brand offers, which may be a single product or service. But don’t stop there. If we learned anything from one of Sophia Amoruso’s most expensive mistakes, you need to envision what other elements of your brand you want to own, meaning you have exclusive rights to have your brand be associated with those products or services.
For example, while a podcast, live event, or blog may not be the focus of your business, they may be crucial to help promote your brand, create diverse revenue streams, and create community—just like apparel and accessories were for #Girlboss.
A great rule of thumb is any revenue sources (products or services) that are in use now, or you plan to launch in the next 6 months. Remember, you can also submit additional trademark applications as your business evolves.
To own your brand and advocate for your vision, you don’t need to have it all figured out right now. Again, start with your core products or services (the main revenue sources) then expand to the supporting elements of your vision so you can fully own your brand.