Jeremy Peter Green is an entrepreneurship attorney who helps businesses protect and expand their brands. Green handled 770 new federal trademark applications in 2018, making him the 10th most prolific trademark attorney in the United States. Green graduated from Northwestern University School of Law on a full scholarship.
Green has been profiled on USA Today, CNBC, CNN Money, NPR's Morning Edition, WIRED, MSNBC, the New York Daily News, HLN, CNN Politics, DCist, Vox.com, CNET, Mic.com, NBC News, Refinery29, the Globe and Mail, and several other news sources. He is best known for owning ClintonKaine.com and hosting "Hillary Potter" fan fiction there during the 2016 election, before selling the domain.
Green is based in Lower Manhattan in New York City. He formerly served as in-house General Counsel and Webmaster for Teamsters Local 922 in Washington, DC.
You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Early Should You Form Your LLC?
Informal BeginningsWhen people ask me how long I’ve been running JPG Legal, it’s hard to decide what to say. My first client hired me for trademark work in the summer of 2015, back when I was just Jeremy Peter Green. As I started picking up more clients, I put up a website in mid-2016, filed a trademark application, and registered “JPG Legal” as a DBA (Doing-Business-As, similar to a trade name or fictitious name in other states).
I continued like this for a while. JPG Legal was my day job for a few months, then my side gig for the first half of 2017, and then my day job again after my first Google Ad campaign took off. I wasn’t being lazy or cheap, really; I just knew that as an individual business owner and as an attorney, the difference between being a sole proprietor and being a single-member LLC was negligible, in terms of liability. Attorneys with LLCs are still individually responsible for any ethical issues, and my general impression was that the layer of protection provided by a single member LLC to its owner is pretty thin compared to that of a corporation or an LLC with multiple members.
Falling Into FormationRegardless, after I had a couple of big months and I quit my day job, I finally formed an LLC in July of 2017. I had formed LLCs for several clients at that point, so it seemed appropriate to do so for myself. DC actually wouldn’t let me form an LLC named JPG Legal because the name was already taken by my DBA. Bizarrely, I had to formally dissolve my DBA in person at the DC business agency office, then form my LLC online as soon as I received notice in the mail that my DBA had been dissolved. So I actually had a period of a few days where I was, arguably, illegally presenting myself as JPG Legal!
Why I Should Have Formed the LLC EarlierLiability didn’t turn out to be relevant at all. But I still wish I had incorporated earlier. In mid-2018, around a year after I formed the LLC, I decided to look into small business loans. I figured that with my six-figure revenue, I had a decent chance of getting a solid offer. I set up an appointment with Capital One, with whom I maintained my checking account and my main business credit card. Once I got there, the bank representative asked me how long I had been running the business. I said, “Well, I technically formed my LLC about a year ago, but I’ve been in business for about three years.”
The Loan WandererUnfortunately, they didn’t actually care how long I had been doing business — they only cared about how old my LLC was. They had a strict, unbending requirement that the business entity be at least two years old. Anything less than that and they wouldn’t even start the application process with you, no matter how much revenue you’d earned and how long you’d been doing business without an entity. I found that most other banks had the same requirement, so I gave up on getting a loan at that point.
For that reason alone — a loan — I wish I had formed my LLC earlier. It’s still possible to get a small business loan with favorable terms if your entity is less than two years old, but your options are limited.
JPG Legal has three full-time employees including myself and brought in over $700,000 in revenue last year, but because of an arbitrary requirement on the part of many banks, a lot of doors will open for us simply because our LLC will be two years old in two weeks.
Amazon’s Project Zero Means Getting a Trademark Is Now More Important Than Ever
Amazon announced a new program yesterday ambitiously named Project Zero. Unlike similarly named projects that aim to reduce things like traffic fatalities or carbon emissions, Amazon’s Project Zero “empowers brands to help drive counterfeits to zero.”
Counterfeiters and Listing Hijackers
Counterfeit products and the associated act of “listing hijacking” — where a counterfeiter lists what they claim to be the owner’s product for a lower price so the counterfeiter shows up as the default seller on the owner’s own product listing — have been a major issue for Amazon over the past couple of years. Roughly half of my trademark clients are Amazon sellers, many of whom only initiate the trademark process after they’ve found their listings hijacked.
Previous Solution: Amazon Brand Registry
Until now, Amazon’s main method for dealing with these counterfeiters has been the Amazon Brand Registry, Amazon’s program that gives sellers enhanced branding options including better listing customization as well as the ability to report hijackers, counterfeiters, and other people infringing on the seller’s branding. The only requirement for membership is a registered trademark.
Because of the minimum wait time of roughly eight-to-twelve months to finish registering a trademark in the U.S., sellers who wait to file their trademark applications until after they’ve been harmed by counterfeiters are due for several months of frustration during which they’ll be unable to do anything to stop these infringers from taking over their listings. Some unfortunate sellers may even discover that the counterfeiters have beaten them to their own trademark!
Even with Amazon Brand Registry membership, sellers are still required to write out each individual product listing that infringes on their trademark and wait for Amazon to manually remove the offending listings, which can be a tedious process if a counterfeiter has launched dozens of imitations of the seller’s products.
Introducing Project Zero
Project Zero is meant to assist with the prevention of counterfeiting through the followings means:
1. Automated Protections
Amazon will automatically remove infringing listings with their new artificial intelligence engine, making use of trademark information and other data submitted by participating sellers. Presumably as this engine is fed more data by sellers, it will get better and better at identifying and removing counterfeiters through machine learning.
2. Self-Service Counterfeit Removal Tool
Amazon will allow sellers who are members of Project Zero to remove counterfeit listings on their own, without having to submit a request to Amazon. If this is as convenient as it sounds, it will make deleting counterfeit listings as easy as deleting spam emails from your inbox.
3. Product Serialization
Apparently by having sellers mark every product’s packaging, Amazon will prevent counterfeit goods from reaching consumers by catching them during the shipping process.
Where Does Trademark Registration Come In?
At the moment, Project Zero is invite-only, but this will surely change as the kinks are worked out. Once it’s opened up for general use, the main requirement for joining will presumably be trademark registration, as with the Amazon Brand Registry. As important as Amazon Brand Registry membership has been up to now, Project Zero membership will be essential. The difference between being a seller with Project Zero and without Project Zero will be even more stark than with Brand Registry, because the remedies for removing counterfeiters will be much more powerful.
As counterfeiters continue to hone their processes for exploiting Amazon, sellers who don’t have fully registered trademarks will be more and more vulnerable compared to ones who are able to use the powerful tools that come with Project Zero. So don’t put off the trademark application process; get in contact with a lawyer — perhaps the very lawyer writing this blog post — as soon as possible.
JPG Legal Update: New Attorney, New Space in Dumbo
Meet Our New Associate Attorney: Oyebola
Our attorney search is over! Oyebola practiced law in Lagos, Nigeria before coming to New York City and getting an LLM in Intellectual Property at Cardozo Law on a Dean’s Merit Scholarship. She beat out over 200 other applicants to get this position. I believe in Silicon Valley lingo she’s what would be described as a “badass.” You can read a bit more about her on our About page. She’s passed the New York Bar Exam and will be licensed here soon, so she’ll be handling a large portion of our trademarking filing and research.
A Bridge Not Too Far
JPG Legal needed more space, so we moved to a new 1400 square foot loft space in Dumbo (short for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”) in Brooklyn, New York, which has become a hub for startups in recent years. The picture above is from the roof, which is right on top of our office’s ceiling, and which we have easy access to.
We were lucky enough to get an office with 13-foot ceilings and beautiful views of the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. I still haven’t gotten used to how beautiful our new space is.
We’ll be building some tiny private offices in here, but we’ll make sure they don’t block the windows from the common areas. We’re also letting Distill Creative run crafting workshops here and we’re using the space as an art studio. We have an office cat named Kiké that we’ve been bringing back and forth between home and work as well.
JPG Legal Is Hiring Its First Associate Attorney
It’s finally time. Gross revenue has been at or above $60,000 a month for four straight months now, and I’m barely maintaining my sanity under the weight of my current workload, so I’ve put out a job listing for JPG Legal’s first associate attorney, a full-time position.
Hopefully, after some training, this person will lighten my workload enough that I can spend more time growing the firm, programming trademark-related software applications, and running my retail store in Manhattan. Maybe I can even start drawing comics again.
This will be a good job. I’m a socialist with a legal background in the labor movement, so I feel obligated to create a job that doesn’t keep the associate working or “on call” outside of their preferred working hours, has excellent remote working options, and doesn’t have a billable hour quota (one of the worst things about working at a conventional law firm). It’ll pay between $60,000 and $70,000 a year depending on experience, plus a substantial bonus, with health insurance and ample paid time off.
It makes me sad to hear my friends at other law firms tell me about how they’re regularly expected to be in the office until late at night and on weekends, and always have to be able to respond to emails immediately even when not working. Those are abusive conditions.
It’s also an ideal position for somebody who has just graduated from law school, because the associate will learn trademark law very quickly, and their salary will grow as the firm grows. They’ll be eligible for an ownership stake sooner than at a conventional law firm, as well. Plus they’ll have a 27″ 2017 iMac, an adjustable sit-stand desk, and a $1,000 lower-back-supporting office chair!
So if you know anybody looking for a legal job, please point them to the listing. The plan is to interview the top candidates around the end of August.
Mid-2018 Update on JPG Legal’s Growth
It’s been about ten months since I last updated you on JPG Legal’s financials. To my surprise, occasionally somebody will hire me and tell me they appreciated the transparency about my firm on the blog. So I’ll keep making posts updating people on JPG Legal’s progress as a law firm and a business. Here’s the latest. All numbers in this post are rounded to the nearest $500.
I ended up finishing 2017 with $227,000 in gross revenue. This is up from a gross revenue of $13,000 in 2016, meaning an annual growth in revenue of 1625% from 2016 to 2017. This is because, as my spreadsheet below hints at, I actually started promoting my solo practice in April 2017. Once I started doing this, the results were positive enough that I immediately made preparations to transition out of my day job as General Counsel of Teamsters Local 922, securing my own Washington, DC office space on July 1, 2017.
Some notes about 2017:
- I did not experience consistent monthly growth in 2017. I actually had a dip after a strong showing of $35,500 for July, before peaking at $41,000 in October, finishing the year with an alarmingly poor performance of $19,500 in December 2017.
2018 saw my move to the Lower East Side of Manhattan — where my great grandfather Max Greenberg once ran a grocery store — at the end of January. My revenue so far this year, from January to May, has been $272,500. Monthly revenue growth has been surprisingly consistent, peaking so far at $74,000 in revenue for May.
I attribute this growth in part to revisions I made to my filing packages. In particular, I added a third, “premium” filing package. This package turned out to be popular, as clients appreciate having the option to cover any potential legal briefs that may need to be drafted in response to substantive office actions at a reasonable, upfront cost. It’s become such an important part of my law practice model that it’s hard to imagine that I only had two packages for so long.
I also made some improvements to my Google ad campaigns, which I continue to hone all the time. And of course, many of my previous clients who have been happy with my work hire me for new trademarks and recommend me to their colleagues. I also periodically poke my head into Facebook groups with names like “Amazon Private Label Ninjas!!!” and “ELITE MASTERS OF AMAZON”.
Some more revenue stats:
- 24% growth from April 2018 to May 2018.
- Annualized revenue based on first five months: $653,494
- Projected annual revenue if revenue stays at May level: $789,470
- Projected annual revenue if average monthly growth from first five months stays the same: $1,285,892
Does Gross Revenue Mean Much?
Gross revenue is a vanity metric if touted without context. It’s useful for showing how much money people are spending on you, which indicates your share of your industry and of the general economy. Pursuit of revenue growth at any cost is common among Silicon Valley-style tech startups, and seems to lead to the collapse of many businesses that may otherwise have thrived.
Revenue isn’t a business’s main purpose, and as a metric it does not differentiate between money that actually goes into paying for a business’s operating costs or growth, and money that passes straight through to suppliers or government filing fees. If my area of law did not require the frequent filing of government documents, my revenue numbers would be drastically lower. Every month, about 40% of my revenue goes directly to government filing fees.
Advertising costs eat up about 18% of my revenue. Payment processing fees, through Stripe and PayPal, cost about 3% of my revenue. I also refund between $1000 and $4000 to my clients per month — sometimes my legal opinion on a trademark is negative and the client would rather get a partial refund than use a different brand name, and sometimes my clients change their plans and need a full refund before any work is performed. Finally, my current office space costs $3200 a month plus utilities, but it’s a street-level retail space in Lower Manhattan, and my girlfriend and I sell various goods and host creative workshops here, so I count it as $1600 a month in my books.
These numbers in green are not quite my Earnings-Before-Taxes (EBT), as they do not include a lot of the spending I’m doing this year to expand the business, including hiring a full-time associate attorney and buying computer equipment. But they represent what my personal income would be if I were not choosing to reinvest most of my surplus into growing the firm. 2016 Jeremy would be flabbergasted at what JPG Legal has become in 2018.
The Next Steps
Once I hire and train an associate attorney this summer to take over a lot of the day-to-day trademark work for me, I’ll be able to dedicate some time to the features I want to add to JPG Legal:
- Powerful, web-based trademark search engine. I have a modest software programming background, and I’m planning to download the entire USPTO trademark database onto my own server and create an interface on my website that will help people perform their own preliminary trademark searches. It will also help my clients keep track of their trademark applications, and send them emails with updates. Eventually I want to design a powerful trademark search platform that automatically generates reports that show all potentially relevant results for a proposed brand name, including spelling variations and translations. I will release this for free online to all, and offer an enterprise version that other attorneys can pay a reasonable fee to use, maybe $100 per month for unlimited searches.
- Legal document library. I want to offer an online library of various contract templates and legal resources. I’m thinking I’ll charge a small fee, maybe $50 or $100 for lifetime membership, but I’m not sure yet.
- Other legal services. I do eventually want to expand JPG Legal’s offerings to include other legal services, including business entity formation, copyright, patent, contract drafting, and eventually even unrelated areas of law like wills and estates.
For now, though, I have to focus on hiring and training an associate attorney while keeping up with my current workload, and running the retail store I share with my girlfriend in Lower Manhattan called Eche Verde. If you know any recent law school graduates who might be interested in an attorney position, let me know!
Amazon announced a new program yesterday ambitiously named Project Zero. Unlike similarly named projects that aim to reduce things like traffic fatalities or carbon emissions, Amazon’s Project Zero “empowers brands to help drive counterfeits to zero.” Counterfeiters and Listing Hijackers Counterfeit products and the associated act of “listing hijacking” — where a counterfeiter lists what they claim to be the owner’s product for a lower price so the counterfeiter shows up as the default seller […]
Meet Our New Associate Attorney: Oyebola Our attorney search is over! Oyebola practiced law in Lagos, Nigeria before coming to New York City and getting an LLM in Intellectual Property at Cardozo Law on a Dean’s Merit Scholarship. She beat out over 200 other applicants to get this position. I believe in Silicon Valley lingo she’s what would be described as a “badass.” You can read a bit more about her on our About […]
It’s finally time. Gross revenue has been at or above $60,000 a month for four straight months now, and I’m barely maintaining my sanity under the weight of my current workload, so I’ve put out a job listing for JPG Legal’s first associate attorney, a full-time position. Hopefully, after some training, this person will lighten my workload enough that I can spend more time growing the firm, programming trademark-related software applications, and running my retail […]
It’s been about ten months since I last updated you on JPG Legal’s financials. To my surprise, occasionally somebody will hire me and tell me they appreciated the transparency about my firm on the blog. So I’ll keep making posts updating people on JPG Legal’s progress as a law firm and a business. Here’s the latest. All numbers in this post are rounded to the nearest $500. 2017 I ended up finishing 2017 […]