Web-based service intended to streamline process for companiesSANTA ROSA -- A website designed to streamline much of the beginning process of registering or researching trademarks was recently launched by a Santa Rosa law firm.

Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross, which has a practice area in trademarks, launched CMPRmarks.com to accommodate what the firm says is often a neglected but key element for small businesses, particularly those within the wine industry and those who may wish to sell their business or brand in the future.

Unlike some areas of law that require strict privacy precautions, the trademark process is well suited for online automation, said Jay Behmke, the firm’s lead trademark attorney. It can also help a small business or entrepreneur obtain sound legal guidance, from the outset, for a reasonable cost.

“It’s a relatively straightforward process, and it really lends itself to being automated,” he said. “More and more companies depend on services offered over the Internet. We think a large part of the future for the legal profession lies online, and we’re very excited to be a part of that.”

The site, Mr. Behmke said, will offer access to a full range of trademark services, from researching potential marks for use in the U.S. to filing and prosecution of trademark applications at the U.S. Trademark Office. It will also enable users to check the status of pending registrations as well as maintenance on already-issued registrations.

Both the firm and potential trademark seekers stand to benefit, added Mr. Behmke.

“Essentially what’s been automated is the intake interview, so we guide you through the process,” he said. “It’s actually sort of easier for us and cheaper for the customer,” he said, because the customer won’t be billed for as many hours by the firm.

“It eliminates some of the barriers of hiring an attorney,” Mr. Behmke said. “Trademarks, at the beginning level, are pretty straightforward, and this gives them the opportunity to get relatively low costs.”

All work done through the website is overseen by the firm’s trademark attorneys.

When a customer applies for a trademark, the firm will then run its traditional trademark search process, to see if it is too similar to another trademark or already in use. The firm will then generate a memo with its recommendations for the customer. If it is determined to be available, the trademark seeker can then instruct the firm to file for registration.

The service isn’t solely dedicated to the wine business, but it was the inspiration for it, Mr. Behmke said, noting that out of the 400 to 500 trademarks the firm manages, about 90 percent are wineries.

“We do a lot of advising and consulting about wine trademarks, and one of the things I had noticed for smaller businesses is the trademark was something that was neglected,” Mr. Behmke said.

But the name of a business, particularly a successful brand of wine, can often be far more valuable than any physical asset being sold, Mr. Behmke said, pointing to the recent example of Francis Ford Coppola acquiring the Inglenook brand name.

“The vast majority of the purchase price ends up getting allocated to the trademark,” Mr. Behmke said, calling it an “intangible asset” versus the physical assets.

“It’s been astonishing to me to see how the trademark is worth so much. What it represents is the sum total of all the experiences people have had with your product.”

The website is www.cmprmarks.com.