In order for a business name to be chosen as one-of-a-kind, making sure it is owned and trademarked by the business is an important step. A trademark protects a company’s name or brand from intellectual property theft or misuse as the company grows.
On the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you can start the trademark application process. The application process can be completed fairly quickly, but the entire process could take several months.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is an insignia, phrase, word, or symbol that signifies a particular product and legally distinguishes it from all others of the same type.
The purpose of a trademark is to identify an item or brand as belonging to a specific company and to recognize the company’s ownership. Business names are protected by trademarks, and registering a trademark ensures that these rights can be documented and enforced.
How Do You Trademark a Name
The trademark application process can be completed in four simple steps, but the entire approval process may take six months or longer. Generally, the cost of filing a basic trademark application is low, but the total out-of-pocket expenses can be significantly higher if the trademark spans multiple classes (more on that later) or if a lawyer is involved.
In spite of the relatively straightforward nature of trademark applications, you should take your time and conduct thorough research.
Trademark applications are reviewed systematically before they are approved. Applying for one doesn’t guarantee you will be granted one. Application fees are non-refundable if your application is denied.
Below are some steps that will help you understand how to trademark a name.
1. Decide if You Need a Trademark
A business name automatically provides trademark protection, but usually only if it can prove that it is the first business to use the name in a particular industry (also called a class).
These common-law provisions generally only extend to the local geographic area in which the name is used. If someone steals or misuses a company name, a federal trademark infringement suit can only be filed if the company has registered a trademark.
The registration of a trademark gives the owner exclusive rights to use the name in connection with the class of goods or services for which the mark is registered on a national level.
The registration of a trademark also makes it easier to apply for trademark registration in other countries. It also entitles you to file a lawsuit in federal court to enforce your trademark.
2. Search for Existing Trademarks
The Trademark Electronic Search System, a tool provided by the patent office, can be used to find similar trademarks to a desired name or mark. This should be done before applying for a trademark since the USPTO will not register your trademark if it is likely to be confused with an existing trademark.
We recommend not only searching for the exact name, but also for variations and similar names, as any existing similarity will likely result in application rejection.
3. Prepare an Application
The preparation of an application requires a significant amount of effort, so making sure that it is as complete as possible is almost as important as verifying that a name or slogan does not already exist.
In order to prepare an application, you will need the following information:
- Address and name of the mark’s owner
- It is your name that you wish to protect
- The goods or services you wish to register your name for
- If you have already begun using your name for business, you can file under “in commerce” (if you have already begun using it for business).
- If you are filing on the basis of use in commerce, you will provide a sample such as a label or a package showing your name at work (if you are filing on the basis of intent to use, you will provide this later)
4. File the Application
Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) offers two filing options: TEAS Standard and TEAS Plus. The TEAS Plus program offers a more affordable filing option, but not everyone is eligible for it. TEAS Plus requires that you use a standard description from the Trademark ID manual for your good or service. In order to write your own description, you must use the standard TEAS application.
After filing, applicants should receive a filing receipt with a serial number that can later be used to reference the application. An application filed with the USPTO is sent to a government patent attorney for review. An applicant may receive a letter (known as an “office action”) if problems are noted after review by a USPTO patent attorney. The applicant typically has six months to resolve any issues or problems, or else the application will expire.
Upon approval, the USPTO will publish the trademark in an online journal so that anyone out there can oppose it. It can take three months for the trademark to be published. If there is no opposition, the trademark will be registered. If you face opposition to your mark, you may need to hire a trademark attorney to defend it and proceed.
What Are the Common Reasons a Trademark Is Rejected?
There are some key facts that you need to know about trademark registration to avoid delays.
- A trademark cannot be registered for non-business purposes. Trademarks can only be applied to brand names you currently use in business or plan to use in the near future.
- A generic or descriptive name cannot be registered. To be approved, your trademark name must be distinctive or unique in some way.
- Consumers cannot be confused by the name. Your name may be too similar to another registered mark or one that is pending. Consumers can be confused when similar marks appear on related goods and services, and mistakenly believe they come from the same company. It is for this reason that every trademark application must specify the kind of goods or services for which a trademark will be used.
Is a Trademark Name Search Necessary?
A trademark search is an invaluable first step because it can prevent potential trademark issues before you submit an application or invest time and money into your business name.
There is a huge database of registered trademarks and pending trademark applications at the USPTO. A basic search will reveal trademarks that are similar to yours. If there is a likelihood of confusion with an existing trademark, the search results can alert you to a potential denial.
Additionally, you can search other sources, such as state trademark databases, business directories, and the internet, to identify other names that are the same as or similar to your proposed trademark. A trademark name search can help you avoid legal and marketing problems down the road.
What Happens Once Registration Is Complete?
A mark will be registered if it is approved based on use in commerce, and any opposition has been resolved. Once the application is approved based on an intent to use it, you will receive a Notice of Allowance, which means your mark has been allowed, but will not be formalized until you begin using it in business and submit a Statement of Use and specimen showing use.
As soon as your trademark registration is complete, you can begin using the registered trademark symbol, ®, next to your name. It is your responsibility to enforce your trademark rights. Make sure you monitor your trademark and take action promptly if you believe someone is infringing upon it.Tags: Business Protection, Form a Business, trademark