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 the 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 […]
Jeremy Peter Green is a fourth-generation Jewish lawyer who helps businesses protect and expand their brands as an entrepreneurship attorney.
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. Jeremy Peter Green handled 356 federal trademark applications in 2017, making him the 36th most prolific trademark attorney in the United States. He graduated from Northwestern University School of Law on a full scholarship.
Green is based in Lower Manhattan in New York City. Green formerly served as outside General Counsel for Lesbians Who Tech and in-house General Counsel and Webmaster for Teamsters Local 922 in Washington, DC.
You may contact him at email@example.com.
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 the 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 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!
MoMA v. MoMaCha: a Trademark Attorney’s Perspective
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is suing MoMaCha, a Manhattan-based coffee shop , art gallery, and gift shop, for trademark infringement. MoMA has filed an Opposition against MoMaCha’s federal trademark application and a lawsuit against MoMaCha in Manhattan’s federal court.
Does MoMA have a good case against MoMaCha?
I now live in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and I’m opening a new mixed-use gallery, studio, and office space about five blocks from MoMaCha, so this case is relevant to me. I’ve seen all of the hype for MoMaCha in the local press, and I’ve even gone inside the store. I wondered how they had worked out their trademark situation, thinking, “there’s no way somebody would open an art gallery and cafe in Manhattan using MoMA’s name, in a clear reference to the world-famous Manhattan museum, without making some kind of arrangement with MoMA.”
Well, I was wrong. Apparently somebody had the arrogance to think they could actually open what is essentially a counterfeit MoMA gift shop without suffering any legal consequences. MoMaCha has said, in the store’s defense, that it isn’t a museum and isn’t competing with MoMA, stating:
“Our platform is a hybrid: matcha bar, flexible exhibition space, and all around community that is organically connected to the arts in countless ways but never have we represented ourselves as having any affiliation to the MoMA, nor are we interested in upholding the responsibility of such,” a rep from MoMaCha told Law 360 (subscription required). “We’re not only working with artists, we’re activating our space with set designers, pastry chefs, schools and all around people who have a story.”
What were they thinking?
MoMaCha’s legal argument is terrible. MoMaCha is directly competing with MoMA. It displays modern art and is using a famous modern art museum’s name to do it. This is an absurdly simple case. The idea that selling coffee and retail goods and exhibiting non-visual art somehow exempts MoMaCha is ludicrous, even ignoring the obvious reality that MoMA and other museums almost always have cafes and gift shops, and frequently have unconventional exhibits of the types described by MoMaCha.
As MoMA noted in its lawsuit, people have already assumed the two establishments are related. Presumably several thousand people, like me, have assumed that this coffeeshop couldn’t exist without some kind of licensing arrangement. MoMaCha will be lucky if the only consequence it endures is having to change its name; MoMA has already suffered from this false association, and MoMaCha can’t claim it wasn’t aware of the existing trademark rights of MoMA.
Quite the opposite: MoMaCha was clearly, undeniably founded with the intent of leaching from the goodwill and brand recognition developed by MoMA over its 88-year history. Two of the store’s three founders, Eric Cahan and Nev Schulman (best known as the filmmaker behind the “Catfish” documentary and television show), are experienced art entrepreneurs and should really know better. Apparently they even received a cease-and-desist letter from MoMA in March before opening, and disregarded it.
What kind of hubris leads people to do something so short-sighted and, arguably, distasteful? It’s not as though they’re a scrappy ma-and-pa store being harassed by a giant, evil corporation like Nestle. I’ve fought countless large bullies on behalf of small businesses, even occasionally winning (See SKINNY COW v SKINNY SQUARES). This is not one of those situations; this is three well-off, experienced businesspeople ripping off the name of a non-profit museum, however big it may be, and forcing it to waste its money on legal fees.
My Unsolicited Legal Opinion
I have to assume MoMaCha’s founders never bothered to talk to an attorney while developing their store. Even a traffic attorney could have told them this was a horrible idea. Presumably they have a lawyer now, and if I were that lawyer, I would advise them to do everything they can to get MoMA to sign a settlement through which MoMaCha agrees to completely change its name and destroy all branded merchandise and signage in exchange for MoMA agreeing not to press for damages.
There is no possible way that MoMaCha can win here. The best possible scenario for this coffeeshop and its founders is that they only have to pay for a rebranding of their store, and not for MoMA’s attorney’s fees and the monetary value of the consumer confusion and dilution of MoMA’s brand caused thus far.
I imagine the MoMaCha founders’ next planned venture is a Manhattan store called Katz’s DelicaTeassen, which sells pastrami sandwiches like the famous Manhattan deli, but is exempt from hundreds of years’ worth of U.S. trademark precedent because it also sells tea.
MarkHound and the Move to Manhattan
The Move to New York City
Big update for JPG Legal: At the end of January 2018, my girlfriend and I moved from Washington, DC to New York City, meaning JPG Legal has moved to New York City as well. Don’t worry, we still file trademark applications for clients all over the world.
If you’re not familiar with my girlfriend, she’s Stephanie Echeveste, retail placemaking consultant and founder of Distill Creative.
Jeremy with his girlfriend Stephanie in Manhattan.
For a while, both of us were working from our apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but we recently secured a retail space near our apartment, and we’ve been working on building it up for our grand opening.
JPG Legal’s temporary home office in Manhattan, right at the foot of the Williamsburg bridge.
The view of Manhattan’s Lower East Side from JPG Legal’s temporary home office.
Most of the living room furniture in the apartment is left over from JPG Legal’s office in DC, so there’s a lot of green and teal here for now, but at least the place is comfortable. I have a lot of (Jewish) family history in the Lower East Side and NYC in general, so it’s wonderful being here. The $3 to $5 fast food lunch options in Chinatown are unbeatable.
Our retail space will be called Eche Verde, a combination of her last name, Echeveste, and my last name, Green, which translates to verde in Spanish. In addition to office space for our businesses, it will serve as an art studio, gallery, event and workshop space, and small goods retail outlet for products that we curate and make.
Introducing MarkHound™, the Trademark Enforcement Service Suite
MarkHound™ is here! This is a new slate of yearly subscription services offered by JPG Legal for enforcing your trademark rights. These types of services are usually only available to larger companies with big legal budgets. As with our trademark search and filing services, MarkHound will even the playing field and allow smaller companies and startups to compete with the big dogs. Services offered include:
1. MarkHound Watch. Subscribers to this service retain JPG Legal to monitor the USPTO database for new applications that potentially infringe on the client’s trademark rights.
2. MarkHound Threaten. This subscription service offers clients the ability to send cease-and-desist letters to as many infringing competitors as necessary. Because these letters will be on a law firm’s letterhead, they’ll have some real bite behind them.
3. MarkHound Oppose. This is the service clients can use to retain us to oppose trademark applications they believe infringe on their trademark rights or would otherwise harm the client’s business.
Stay tuned for even more service offerings, helpful blog posts, and even more helpful mailing list emails.
The Evolution of JPG Legal as a Website
and as a Law Firm
Me editing an abandoned JPG Legal trademark page concept in late 2016.
A Good Small Firm Attorney Is a Good Web Designer
Segment about my “Hillary Potter” fan fiction and comics on HLN’s Morning Express.
Ezra Klein and Glenn Beck write about my ClintonKaine.com “Hillary Potter” website.
Before then I had been contracting as the Director of Strategic Initiatives (a title I made up and got approved) at a small Department of Defense office, where I had to deal with a bad work environment, large and unpredictable gaps in my employment, and my own moral qualms about being an active participant in the genocidal military-industrial complex of a global hegemony.
Rachel Maddow discusses my Hillary Potter fanfiction on July 22, 2016, the day Clinton chose Kaine as her running mate.
JPG Legal Begins
This windfall from my quirky domain name escapade was the spur I needed to finally get myself out of that situation and strike out on my own.
JPG Legal’s website on September 28, 2016.
As you can see from the screenshot above, I had a barren website a year ago. I had just designed a logo for myself in Adobe Photoshop, and jpg.legal was simply an online listing for people who had heard about me through personal referrals and wanted to contact me. I was licensed in New York, living in Washington, D.C., and waiting for my D.C. Bar paperwork to come through, so I was uncomfortable with the idea of actively promoting myself online.
I had filed about eight trademark applications total and I was taking any work I could get, from LLC operating agreements to L-1 business visas to personal injury cases on contingency. I was also doing landlord-tenant work pro bono for anybody I met in D.C. whose landlords were trying to screw them. I worked out of a Cove co-working space that I paid $125 a month to use, a major expense for me at that time.
JPG Legal’s website on November 10, 2016.
JPG Legal’s website on November 14, 2016.
I had very few clients during those months and a ton of down time, so I tried to make good use of that free time by building out my solo practice’s website. In the screenshots above, you can see a version of jpg.legal that has more of a resemblance to the current page, but still has a long way to go.
Around that time, I found that I enjoyed trademark work and I decided it would be a good niche for finding clients online, so I focused my website development on that area of law. The background picture in the screenshots above is a photograph of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office I had grabbed from Flickr under a free-for-commercial-use license.
JPG Legal’s main page on November 15, 2016.
JPG Legal’s trademark landing page on November 21, 2016.
By late November, I had finally arrived at a website design that looked reasonably attractive and professional, and I had ditched the USPTO photograph for something that worked better for aesthetics. I had also made a separate landing page just for trademark clients, which contained an online form through which potential clients could hire me. At that point, I still hadn’t yet decided to offer a Filing-and-Monitoring-Only Package for entrepreneurs who either didn’t need or couldn’t afford a full search package.
JPG Legal’s trademark landing page on November 24, 2016.
Now I was cooking! Above you see the background image I now currently use for my trademark landing page, minus the YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE™ overlay on the iPad. You can also see that I was charging $200 for my basic package at first. If you look really closely, you can see the trademark price sheet of LegalZoom (my biggest competitor) open in one of my browser’s tabs.
I had a pretty good landing page at this point. Unfortunately, I was almost broke (even after doing a few weeks of miserable legal document review temp work), and couldn’t afford to experiment with Google Ads, so I had no way to promote my new website. Around this time, Teamsters Local Union 922 came to me and offered me a job as their new taxi union attorney and lobbyist. I gratefully took the job (on the condition that they allow me to keep running my solo practice on the side), and after my first week there I convinced them to change my title from “Attorney” to “General Counsel” (to make me a more compelling lobbyist, of course). I also built a little website for them and gave all the staff members custom email addresses at Teamsters922.com.
JPG Legal’s trademark landing page on May 2, 2017.
JPG Legal Takes Off
After four months at this job I managed to save up $5000, and then I received a $3000 advance retainer from one of my few solo practice clients. With this bankroll, I was ready to launch my Google AdWords campaign. I quickly finished building out the functionality of my website forms and I started an ad campaign in April of 2017. I was right to wait until I had saved up $8000, because I blew through almost my entire bankroll before I actually hit on a profitable ad campaign formula in May. That month or so during which I was burning through my savings and tinkering with my ads was stressful, but also a lot of fun. After that initial month, I was getting so much business that it was clear that I was going to have to transition out of my role as in-house counsel at the Teamsters.
Fortunately, I was able to work out a transition plan with them and I now still serve as outside counsel. I’m also helping to build a new labor union for Uber and Lyft drivers in my free time.
JPG Legal today (October 1, 2017).
At some point I decided my landing page still looked awkward, so I came up with the “You Have No Excuse” slogan, designed some branding for it in Photoshop, and filed a trademark application for it. I also incorporated it into the slideshow on the enormous display monitor I run with an RKM Android mini-computer in my strategically located office at the WeWork Apollo here in Northeast Washington, DC.
And there you have it! I’ve filed over 225 trademark applications so far. I never could have imagined that my firm would be taking off so quickly. Dreamed, maybe, but not imagined.
The Future of the Trademark
The Trademark Industry Is a Racket
Sometimes people ask me how my business model is profitable, or what my edge is. I find it hard to answer them without making it sound like I’m cutting corners, but the truth is that JPG Legal’s edge is simply that we’re cheaper than all of the good services and better than all of the cheap services. We’re an actual law firm that performs actual legal work while still charging as little as or less than the online “legal services” factories like LegalZoom.
The two primary trademarking models — both the traditional law firm model and the online “legal services provider” model — are rackets.
Conventional lawyers are bad at client acquisition, so they tend to exploit the clients they do manage to get, billing as many hours to their clients as they can. In reality, it simply doesn’t take much time to perform due diligence on trademarks, or to file trademark applications.
However, on the other end, there are also all of these cheap, no-frills online service providers who don’t seem to be bound by any ethical obligations and who mislead people about their likelihood of success or the hidden back-end costs of their trademark applications. I’m trying to bridge that gap with my firm.
JPG Legal’s Growth, Margins, and Profitability
My growth in the past few months has been phenomenal, and I’m going to need to start hiring help soon. However, it’s very important to me that JPG Legal stay an actual law firm and not become a corporate middleperson like LegalZoom. I believe that the margins are high enough at my price point to keep giving professional-level service to clients and avoid selling out; I’m going to make sure that my clients’ cases are handled by actual, knowledgeable attorneys who are employees of JPG Legal (as opposed to independent contractors).
profits earnings before taxes in U.S. dollars since launching Google ads in April 2017.
The screenshot of my accounting spreadsheet above shows my recent monthly profits (correction: earnings before taxes (EBT)) in U.S. dollars since I first finished building out my website and launched Google ads in April. This is after accounting for advertising costs ($10,000 in May, $4,500 in June, and $3,500 in July), office expenses ($1,123 in July, the month I moved into my current office), and filing fees ($5,500 in May, $7,250 in June, and $18,000 in July).
Last month, I filed about 70 trademark applications, and I’m at maybe 30% capacity. Once I reach 70% or 80% capacity, I’ll hire an associate attorney for my firm. My model is very scalable; it’s profitable enough that I could keep hiring attorneys and give them good salaries and benefits ad infinitum.
Most of my income now comes from repeat clients and referrals, so the growth is going to keep compounding. The jump from $4,500 in June to $12,000 in July, in particular, was stunning. I now find myself in the enviable position of figuring out how to scale my firm sooner than I had expected.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is suing MoMaCha, a Manhattan-based coffee shop , art gallery, and gift shop, for trademark infringement. MoMA has filed an Opposition against MoMaCha’s federal trademark application and a lawsuit against MoMaCha in Manhattan’s federal court. Does MoMA have a good case against MoMaCha? I now live in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and I’m opening a new mixed-use gallery, studio, and office space about five blocks […]
The Move to New York City Big update for JPG Legal: At the end of January 2018, my girlfriend and I moved from Washington, DC to New York City, meaning JPG Legal has moved to New York City as well. Don’t worry, we still file trademark applications for clients all over the world. If you’re not familiar with my girlfriend, she’s Stephanie Echeveste, retail placemaking consultant and founder of Distill Creative. Jeremy with […]
The Trademark Industry Is a Racket Sometimes people ask me how my business model is profitable, or what my edge is. I find it hard to answer them without making it sound like I’m cutting corners, but the truth is that JPG Legal’s edge is simply that we’re cheaper than all of the good services and better than all of the cheap services. We’re an actual law firm that performs actual legal work while still […]