When a person refers to your business, they will usually do so by name. Sometimes this may even conjure up an image of your logo in their mind. Your business’ name and logo are key elements of intellectual property that hold inherent value by defining its brand identity. Without them, your customers would not be able to differentiate you from another company offering a similar product or service.
Registering a trademark for your business protects your company’s brand by ensuring that you can stop others from copying or using your intellectual property to profit themselves. It also ensures that you do not invest resources into building a brand identity based on intellectual property that is already trademarked by another company. Given how important a registered trademark is to protecting your company and brand, it is critical that you begin the trademark process as early as possible, whether you are just starting a new business or you are launching a new product or service. If you have any questions about intellectual property rights or the trademark process, contact the experienced attorneys at War IP Law by calling 202-902-6362 or filling in our online form.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a trademark as a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies a business’ goods or services. A trademark provides a business with exclusive legal rights to its brand by preventing competitors from using any marks that are identical or similar.
While a business name and logo are somewhat protected against theft under common law, these protections can be difficult to enforce. Additionally, they only apply within the local area in which the business is registered. A federally registered trademark, on the other hand, applies at the national level and it is legally enforceable in federal court. Trademark registration in the United States also enables a business to register its mark in other countries and prevents a brand from being fraudulently used to import goods into the country.
The Trademark Registration Process
Registering a trademark is a process that takes several months and involves three key steps:
Step 1: Define the Trademark
To register a trademark, a business needs to define exactly what the name or mark will be and the exact goods or services to which it will apply. This involves searching the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to ensure that no other businesses already have trademark rights to a similar or identical name or logo for a related good or service.
Step 2: Prepare an Application
To file a trademark application, it is recommended that the business contact an experienced trademark attorney. The trademark attorney will need the following information for the application:
- Name, address, and contact details of the business or entity filing the application
- Name or mark being included in the trademark application
- Description and example of the mark
- List of goods and services included in the trademark application
- Class of goods or services
The processing fee for filing an application is determined by the type of application being filed and the number of classes included in the application.
Step 3: Receive an Outcome
Once an application is submitted, the USPTO will provide a confirmation receipt and serial number, which can be used to monitor the status of the application. The trademark application is then forwarded to an examining attorney for review, which can take several months to be completed. It is important to respond promptly to any correspondence from the USPTO so that any problems with the application can be resolved quickly. Once the application is approved, it is published to permit a third-party to file an opposition if they believe that they will be harmed by the registration of the mark. If no legitimate opposition is filed, a notice of allowance will be issued or, if the mark was in use prior to the filing of the application, the trademark will be registered.
The Ideal Time to Start the Trademark Process
Trademark applications can be filed for names and marks that are currently being used in commerce or those that are intended to be used in the future. Using a name or logo without trademark rights, however, can be risky. It is not uncommon for businesses to invest valuable resources into building a strong brand identity, only to later find that these were wasted because their name or logo actually is in use by another company or infringes on another company’s existing trademark rights. Therefore, starting the trademark process as early as possible is key to effectively protecting a business’ brand identity. In fact, the time when a company simply begins evaluating ideas for a name, logo, or mark, whether it be for the business itself or a good or service it offers, is the ideal time to begin the trademark process.
The Timeframe for Obtaining Trademark Protection
Although the trademark registration process can take several months, a filed application provides protection for a company even before approval is granted. The Trademark Office gives priority to trademark applications based on the filing date of the application itself. Trademark applications for names or marks that are similar to an existing application will not be approved, thereby providing companies with trademark protection as soon as they file an application. This provides another reason for businesses to begin the trademark process as early as possible.
Contact an Experienced Trademark Attorney Today
Many small business owners mistakenly believe they cannot afford to hire an attorney for trademark registration. While there are several online resources that can assist an entrepreneur in registering a trademark on their own, many entrepreneurs and business owners find that hiring an experienced lawyer is a cost-effective decision. Undertaking the trademark process involves understanding complex trademark laws to accurately complete an application and engaging in back-and-forth communications with the USPTO to get the trademark application approved. This can be extremely time-consuming, and many business owners find that their time is better spent on business operations instead. In addition, certain filing mistakes result in the trademark application being abandoned and a new application filed. This could delay registration of your mark for months, if not years.
A trademark is vital to protecting the intellectual property of a company’s brand identity, but applying for one can be complicated. Hiring an experienced trademark lawyer to manage the trademark process is, therefore, often a good investment in the business. Contact War IP Law at 202-902-6362 or fill in our online form to learn more about how we can assist you with the trademark process. We offer consultations and are here to help with all of your intellectual property rights.