Platforms like Shopify, Stripe, and WordPress have done much to build the necessary business-building tools, such as running storefront, accepting payments, and even creating accessible websites for businesses with huge budgets.
But some of the most important aspects of setting up a company remain costly, time-consuming issues that can be cost-effective for a small business – but if ignored, a business can fail before it really starts. Trademark registration is a similar concern, and Toronto-based startup Heirlume has raised just $1.7 million CAD ($1.38 million) to solve problems with a machine-driven trademark registration platform that will not break down the process.
Official government trademark search tools and even top-level legal entities may not run, even if the terms of existing trademarks in the United States and Canada can run a lot, its AI-based trademark search will be flagged. Heirlume’s main focus is on leveling the playing field for small traders, who usually match significantly in the event of a trademark dispute.
“I am a senior-level IP lawyer focused on trademarks, and have practiced in my own boutique firm for over a decade serving large clients and small clients,” explained Julie McDonnell, co-founder of Heirlume, in an interview.
“So providing large multinationals with lots of brand strategy and internal legal firms, and then basically serving small business clients when they deal with any issues related to contract-breaches or breaches. It’s really all those clients who have a heart: it’s incredible to literally cry tears on the phone with a small business owner because they just lost their brand or business overnight. And I couldn’t do anything to help because the law wasn’t just for them, because they neglected to register their trademarks in their ownership.”
McDonnell says that as part of that, there is actually a lack of awareness about what it takes to register and own a trademark. Many entrepreneurs, for example, have started looking for a domain name as a first step, and some will be forcing a significant amount to register these domains. However, what they don’t understand is that it’s basically a rented domain.
Even if business owners realize that the trademark should be their first stop, there are actually barriers to securing one. “There was a huge, insurmountable barrier when it came to brand protection for these business owners,” he said. “And that’s just not fair. Every other business service, usually a small business owner can access. Incorporating any company or even insurance, for example, owning and buying insurance for your business is somewhat affordable and accessible. But that’s not brand ownership.”