Registering a Trademark Overview
As a small business owner, you may decide you want to protect your brand. The name of your product or service is can be crucial to having a successful business. You will gain a number of significant legal protections once you register your brand with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Below you will find a step-by-step guide to applying for federal trademark registration. You can also register your mark in your state, which will put others on notice as to your ownership of legal rights to the mark. Also, you may want to download FindLaw's Guide to How to Register a Trademark [PDF] for an overview of the process of obtaining and registering a trademark over your goods.
Step #1: Applying for Federal Registration
The first step in the trademark registration process is deciding if you should register your mark in the first place. There are numerous benefits associated with getting registered. The most important being that you can file a lawsuit against anyone who uses your trademark without your permission, including counterfeits.
You will also be able to use the cool "®" symbol next to your brand. This helps to to warn others against using it. You will also be able to sell and license your brand; which can be a hugely lucratively activity.
Step #2: Perform a Trademark Search
Perhaps the most important step in this process, performing a trademark search will be the key to making sure you aren't stealing anyone else's brandname or likeness. Check if your trademark is already registered.
You'll want to perform a trademark search before you send in your application. If you do find that someone already owns the trademark you want to use, you can ask the existing holder for permission to register yours. For more information on this process, you may wish to contact an attorney who specializes in intellectual property.
Step #3: File a Federal Trademark Application
The most time-sensitive part of the trademark process is filing the federal trademark application. The USPTO has a online system you can use to file your application known as the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Remember, there are strict guidelines and fee requirements you must follow to get your application successfully approved.
Step #4: After You Submit the Application
After you submit your application, it will be time to play the "waiting game." A clerk will assign a number to your case and then it will go through a review process. If someone else objects to your trademark for infringement, you'll want to consider hiring legal assistance, if you haven't already, to help resolve the dispute.
Step #5: Maintaining Federal Trademark Registration
If your application does get approved, the work doesn't stop there. You'll need to follow a number of steps in order to maintain your trademark registration. Trademarks typically last for 10 years, but be sure to confirm the current state of the law.
Getting Legal Help With Your Trademark Application
An attorney can help you before, during, and after the trademark application process. A skilled lawyer will be able to explain the benefits of federal trademark registration and suggests resources if you need help with your application. Having a trademark as part of your business plan is critical to your success. Contact an experienced business and commercial law attorney in your jurisdiction for more information.