Trademark Your Business Name
When and how to trademark your business name?
Your company is precisely that: a company. You came up with an idea, developed a brand, and started working on something you can be proud of. But wait, what exactly is this? Another tiny business has taken your brand name, ripped off your concept, and claimed it as its own.
While your company is personal and unique to you, it is also a legally protected piece of intellectual property. This implies that it needs legal protection. This is where the use of a trademark comes into play.
What is the definition of a trademark?
When launching a business, the initial steps are to choose a name, design a logo, and potentially even come up with a tagline. You should take efforts to protect your business name and reputation before making any of your information public.
This is exactly what a trademark does. A trademark protects the brand, logo design, and company entity as a whole from being illegally imitated, according to trademark law. This entails safeguarding what you’ve created. You must also ensure that your business and brand do not conflict with other trademarks, since this might land you in serious legal difficulties.
Trademarks and copyrights are frequently confused. Music, movies, television, and other forms of art are all protected by copyrights. You probably don’t need to worry about copyright unless you’re in the business of making unique art.
Is a trademark required for your company?
A trademark is an excellent concept for protecting your business, but it isn’t required by law.
Registration of your business with your secretary of state is sufficient to prevent anyone else in your state from forming a business entity with the same secretary of state. But what about the other 49 states? Those are still available.
One of the most important advantages of registering a trademark for your company is that it protects your brand. If you decide to grow your business outside of your home state, you won’t have any trouble registering your company.
- Protecting your brand and business against imposters,
- preventing client misunderstanding, and
- increasing your confidence and sense of security are just a few of the other advantages of obtaining a trademark.
How long does it take to get a trademark?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues trademarks, and it’s a good idea to apply for one shortly after filing your business registration paperwork.
The time it takes to obtain a trademark varies. In general, the trademark registration process will take between 12 and 18 months. This is not a quick job, since it takes time to complete all of the review steps and acquire your official certificate of registration.
How much does it cost to register a trademark?
Another factor that varies based on the nature of your trademark is the cost. You’ll need to know how many classes (or categories) of products or services you’re applying for, as you’ll have to pay a filing fee for each one. Legal fees will be added to the overall cost if you hire an attorney to assist you with the trademark process.
In terms of trademark fees, you’ll have to pay an initial application fee. The actual cost depends on which Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) filing option you select. Here’s how the USPTO explains the distinction:
- TEAS Plus: More requirements upfront, but a lower fee per class of goods/services$250 per class of goods/services.
- TEAS Standard: Fewer requirements upfront, but a higher fee per class of goods/services$350 per class of goods/services.
In Step 7, you’ll find more information on each of these possibilities. But for now, simply be aware that they come with varying pricing and criteria. Finally, keep in mind that you may be charged additional fees for your application. This happens in specific situations, such as when you need extra time to demonstrate your trademark’s use.
What is the procedure for obtaining a trademark?
The importance of trademarking cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, obtaining a trademark in the United States is a complicated and time-consuming process. However, it is not impossible to complete on your own.
The following is a step-by-step guide to registering your trademark. Because trademark registration in the United States is quite complicated, you should either engage an attorney or devote a significant amount of time to extensive research.
Step 1: Determine whether you need a trademark
A trademark is a symbol, design, sound, or expression that represents your company, product, or service. Make careful you don’t mix it up with a copyright or a patent.
Artistic works are protected by copyrights. Patents cover products and provide legal protection to the inventor of the original product if someone tries to copy it. If you’re offering anything unique, you’ll want to file a patent to ensure that your products aren’t copied.
Step 2: Determine your target audience.
When it comes to protecting your intellectual property, trademarks aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are various types of marks for various forms of intellectual property, each of which provides more specialized protection.
Choose one of the three-mark formats that best fit your proposed trademark:
- Standard character mark: This safeguards any combination of words, letters, or numbers, regardless of typeface or style (for example, the name of a business or a slogan). It gives you a lot of freedom to use it in whatever way you want.
- Stylized/design mark: This refers to a trademark that has a design that you want to protect (for example, a logo). There may or may not be letters in the design.
- Sound Mark: A sound mark is a melody or jingle that is associated with a brand. The MGM roaring lion sound, for example, falls under a sound mark.
You’ll nearly always require a standard character mark and design mark, no matter what kind of business you’re launching. This is because you’ll need a name and a logo for your company.
Step 3: Decide if you need an attorney
Do you require legal assistance in the research, filing, and protection of your trademarks? Technically, you don’t have to—you can do it on your own. However, it may be a good idea for a variety of reasons:
- While you can search the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database for competing trademarks, a trademark attorney can do a more thorough search. Your lawyer will be able to spot any potential issues with your mark and advise you on whether or not you should apply at all.
- A trademark application is a legal procedure. It has legal restrictions and deadlines, and if you don’t meet them, you won’t get your money back. If you file correctly the first time, the flat cost many attorneys’ charges can be worth it.
- If you receive communication from an examining attorney representing the USPTO, you may require legal counsel to react properly.
An attorney can assist you with all of the processes on this list as well as provide any further legal guidance you may require. Is a trademark or patent required for a T-shirt with your logo, for example? Without hours of bleary-eyed Google searches, an attorney will be able to provide you with a clear response to those types of questions
Step 4: Show them what you’ve got.
You must choose a legally recognized identifier for your goods and services, and your logo, name, or jingle will represent a specific good or service. This entails coming up with a name that doesn’t infringe on another company’s trademark and isn’t too similar to confuse.
This is a crucial step, as failure to do so could result in your trademark not being registered. Here are some pointers on how to correctly recognize your mark:
- Goods versus services: Do you sell items (physical or digital stuff) or services (help or consulting)?
- Define your products or services correctly: What products or services do you offer? Enter relevant keywords in the search box to find your product or service in the Trademark ID Manual. To discover the right ID for your service or good, go under “Basic Fields.” If you can’t find it, there will be a space on the TEAS Standard form where you can define your product or service. (On the TEAS Plus form, this is not the case; see Step 7 for further information.)
Step 5: Ensure you’re not copying anyone
This road has two directions. Always double-check to see if there are any other firms, people, or brands out there with a high “chance of confusion” with your mark. The trademark database comes into play here.
It’s crucial to realize that it’s not just about finding others who have the same mark or name as you, but also those who are similar. If someone has already registered or filed for a mark that is the same or similar to yours, and it is utilized for related items or services, the USPTO may reject your application. Infringing on a trademark is the last thing you want to do.
At first, searching the TESS database can be overwhelming. Take note of the following features, as you’ll most certainly need them when searching for other trademark owners:
- Basic Word Mark Search: This is a straightforward search that lets you look for business names and slogans rather than designs.
- Structured Word or Design Mark Search: Using the Design Code Manual to identify designs, this tool allows you to search for both words and designs.
- Free Form Search: Based on Boolean logic, this is a more complex search. It features a lot of search boxes and may be tough to use for novices. Check out the TESS Help Menu for a more in-depth look into looking for marks.
If you come across a trademark that is identical to the one you wish to apply for during your trademark search, you may become discouraged. Don’t give up hope—trademark rights aren’t indestructible.
By the end of the sixth year, federal trademark law requires you to file for trademark renewal. The trademark is no longer valid after the tenth year. Check the status of the trademark in the database to see if it’s still active or not. You might be in luck if it’s dead! If it’s up and running, it’s time to pivot and register a new trade name.
Remember that not everyone chooses to register their trademark with the USPTO, therefore TESS may not contain all relevant results. However, you should still examine for unregistered marks because the owners often maintain rights to them whether or not they are registered. (Again, retaining the services of an attorney may be quite beneficial in this area.)
Step 6: Determine your legal foundation for filing.
You should know your legal foundation for submitting the trademark before you apply. There are two possibilities:
- Use in commerce
- Intent to use
Essentially, you’re certifying whether you’ve used or intend to utilize the mark in sales and products (meaning your product or service is market-ready). The “statement of use in commerce” must be supported by an example of how the mark was used; “intend to use” will necessitate the submission of a separate form and fee.
Step 7: Submit your trademark application.
Finally, you can start using TEAS to submit your application. You’ll start by filling out an initial application form, which you can choose from the TEAS Plus or TEAS Standard.
TEAS Plus has a lower filing price ($250 per class of good or service) than TEAS Standard, but it has more stringent standards. You must complete the following steps to use the TEAS Plus form:
- File a complete form.
- Select your goods or services from the list on ID Manual (described in Step 4—there is some room for customization, but you cannot write a “free-text” entry describing your product as with TEAS Standard).
- pay full fees at the time of filing.
- File later communications regarding the application through TEAS.
- Receive all communications via email.
The application price for the TEAS Standard form is $350 per class of commodity or service. If you are unable to meet the TEAS Plus standards, you have this option. For both TEAS Standard and TEAS Plus, the fee requirements and payment options are listed below.
Keep the following in mind when applying:
- The filing process may have a few strict deadlines.
- Your filing fee will not be refunded.
- Your data will become public once filed.
Step 8: Sweet success
Keep in mind that registering a trademark does not guarantee rapid success. The review will take several months to complete.
You will receive a notice of publication with the date of publication if the USPTO has no objections to your registration. Anyone who believes they have been harmed by your mark has 30 days after it is published to take action.
If no opposition is filed (or if it is unsuccessful), you will proceed to the next step in the registration process, which will result in the issuance of a certificate of registration. The USPTO should register the mark and send you a registration certificate in about 11 weeks.
You will receive a notice of allowance if you submitted it with the intent to utilize it. After then, you’ll have six months to start using the mark in commerce, or you’ll have to ask for a six-month extension.
Even if your application is granted, you must continue to complete maintenance paperwork every month to keep your registration active. Your trademark isn’t something you can “set and forget.”
Make Your Mark
It’s time to make some noise now that your trademark has been approved. Set up your domain name, print your company name on business cards or other branded goods, and shout it from the rooftops about your company. You’ve worked hard for this moment, so enjoy it.
Remember that your trademark will expire after five years, so mark your calendar and create reminders. You’ve worked hard to get this far, so losing your trademark is the last thing you want to happen.
Now get out there and build a name for yourself in the business world.