Registering your trademark helps you set your business apart from your competitors.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark protects the identifying attributes of your business, such as your name, logo, and slogan.
Although “service mark” is the technical term for businesses that provide services and “trademark” applies to product-based companies, “trademark” is commonly accepted for both kinds of companies.
Trademarks last as long as the business uses the trademarked items. In short, your trademark can last five years or five generations.
Anyone can slap a ™ on their business-related intellectual property (IP), but registering your trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides extra protection if someone copies your IP.
How Do I Register a Trademark?
Registering a trademark requires research, collection of data, and formal application to the federal government. There are also particular requirements for renewing your trademark to retain ownership of your IP.
The Trademark Registration Process
- Trademark Search: conduct research to see if someone already has ownership of the IP you’re planning on registering. This step takes time, but it’s essential to run at least a quick investigation to prevent your application from being denied or your business being sued for trademark infringement. If needed, an attorney can help you conduct your search.
- Preparing and Filing Trademark Application: prepare your application and submit it to the USPTO. You’ll need an attorney to help you organize and file the document.
- Prosecution of the Application by the USPTO: A trademark examiner will look through your application and may issue an office action. If all objections are overcome, then the application is filed for opposition. As long as no objections are raised, the application moves forward.
- Registration of the Trademark: the USPTO issues an official trademark registration notice with a registration date. Businesses can now use ® to mark their company’s IP.
- Section 8 and 15 Registration: After the fifth anniversary of registration, companies can file a section 8 declaration of continued use and a section 15 declaration of incontestability.
- Trademark Registration Renewal: Every ten years, the company must pay fees to the USPTO to keep their trademark registration valid.
Why Is It Important to Register a Trademark?
Registering your trademark through the federal government gives you nationwide coverage of your brand’s IP. Having an official trademark alerts others about your business and gives you documentation that proves your IP ownership.
If someone else is running a search before registering their own trademark, your brand will pop up if their IP is similar to yours.
Someone Has a Similar Trademark—Can I Still Register Mine?
It depends. If your business is in the same industry, it will likely not be approved because it could confuse potential customers.
However, suppose your industry is vastly different from the industry with a similar trademark. In that case, it may be approved by the USPTO because it would be tough to confuse the two.
Delta Airlines and Delta Dental are two companies that are trademarked even though they share “Delta” in the business name. But if someone is attempting to book a flight and stumbles on the Delta Dental insurance page, they’ll know they’re in the wrong place.
What Can I Trademark?
IP that can be trademarked includes:
- Business names
- Business logos
- Business slogans
- Anything that shows the source of products/services
IP that cannot be trademarked includes:
- Artistic works such as paintings, photographs, sculptures, etc. (protect these with copyright)
- Written works such as novels, articles, screenplays, etc. (protect these with copyright)
- Dramatic works such as choreography, songs, animations, etc. (protect these with copyright)
- Software (protect these with copyright)
- Inventions or innovations (protect these with patents)
- Offensive words
- Proper names or likenesses without consent
- Generic phrases
- Deceptive words or graphics
- The likeness of a former or current US president
What’s the Difference Between a Basic and Comprehensive Search?
A basic search only covers direct matches for your mark in the USPTO database.
A comprehensive search looks for anything similar to your mark. Working with an attorney to run a comprehensive search increases the chances of your trademark application being approved by the USPTO.
What Classes Do I Need to Register In?
That’s entirely up to you and the nature of your business. You’ll only be able to use your trademark for the classes of business that you apply for.
The USPTO recognizes forty-five classes of products and services. Thirty-four are for goods, and eleven are for services.
Let’s say you run a fitness company, and you teach group fitness classes. You’d register your trademark under class 041 – education and entertainment services. But you also sell clothes with your brand’s name and logo on them, so you’d need to register in class 025 – clothing as well.
Can I Trademark All of My Business IP in One Application?
Unfortunately, you have to submit a different application for each IP you want to trademark. So if you’re looking to register your name and your logo, you’ll have to submit two applications.
Can I Register a Trademark Myself?
Yes, you can file directly with the USPTO. However, working with an attorney to draft your trademark application increases the chance of it being approved by the USPTO. An attorney will ensure that there’s no registered trademark that can be confused with yours and that your paperwork is filled out correctly.
Can Anyone File a Trademark?
The USPTO outlines four requirements for the registration of a trademark:
1. The application must be under the owner’s name, and that person must be responsible for the goods/services provided by the business with that trademark. The owner can be an individual, partnership, association, or corporation.
2. The applicant must specify the type of business entity it operates as and claim its national citizenship. The owners don’t necessarily have to have US citizenship, but they do have to state their citizenship status.
3. The applicant must be able to prove their intent to use the trademark for business purposes.
4. The applicant must provide a drawing or example of the IP they want to trademark.
If a person can check all four of these boxes, then they can file a trademark application.
What Happens If Someone Uses My Trademarked Material?
If someone infringes on your trademark, you can take legal action. Having your trademark registered through the USPTO gives you the right to ownership and absolute protection of your material.
While you can ask someone to stop using your unregistered IP, it will be harder to win a court battle without the documentation of who had legal ownership first.
Register Your Trademark with LegalZone
Registering your trademark is a fantastic way to protect your brand identity. Many businesses shy away from federally registering their trademark because of the cost and length of the process.
At LegalZone, we believe everyone has the right to protect their IP. We make it easy and affordable for businesspeople to claim ownership of their trademarks. if you need an attorney can take the lead and guide you every step of the way and make trademark registration for your company a breeze.
If you have any questions, we’re more than happy to help. Just reach out to us, and one of our exceptional LegalZone customer service representative will help you.
If you’re ready to begin your trademark application LegalZone is the right choice to get started quickly, we’re ready to assist you.
Start Your Trademark Application today.