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If you’re considering launching a business, you need to think about trademarking your new company’s name. Obtaining a trademark is of particular importance when legally marketing your business’s services or products. The last thing you want is a lawsuit from a competitor or another company challenging your name.
So, what’s involved with trademark registration? Do you need an attorney? And what does it cost? Our legal expert Sally helps answer all these questions and more and introduces you to some popular online trademark registration services, which can take the hassle off your hands and save you money at the same time.
- What Is A Trademark?
- Copyright Vs Trademark Vs Patent: What’s The Difference?
- How To Register A Trademark
- How To Register It Online
- What If I Want To Protect My Idea Or Invention?
Simply put, a trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or well-established by use that represents a business or product. If you care about your company’s brand — and you should—- then registering your trademark is a must. The most well-known names that come to mind are Target, Starbucks and McDonald’s. But companies of all sizes should consider trademark registration as a vital step in creating their business.
Watch this brief video if you’re wondering how copyrights, trademarks and patents differ.
There are several factors to consider and steps to take when registering a trademark.
Run A Trademark Search
After you’ve come up with a few ideas for your company’s name, it’s time to conduct a trademark search. You can search online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but, keep in mind, this tool only searches for federal marks officially filed with the USPTO. There may still be conflicts with potentially confusing marks already in use by businesses — even unregistered marks. These could seriously affect your ability to register or use your trademark.
Although it’s not required, having a trademark attorney analyze your search results and advise you on the strength of your mark can save you time and money in the long run, especially if you’re eager to get your business up and running. It can take up to a year to have a legal trademark in hand, so it’s important to apply for a strong trademark that has little chance of being denied.
File The Paperwork
You can find and submit initial application forms on the USPTO website. The trademark cost for filing is $275, which is non-refundable even if your application gets rejected. It can take six months to a year until they approve or deny your application, but you can check on the progress via their website.
Approved Or Rejected?
If your application gets a green light, your trademark accelerates to the Intent-to-Use (ITU) stage. If denied, you can file an office action response within six months, which requests a reconsideration. The USPTO will publish your ITU-stage application in a weekly Official Gazette. If another company believes your mark might damage theirs, they must file an opposition within 30 days. If no one protests, you will have an official trademark (TM) within 12 weeks.
Use Your Mark Commercially
You’ll have six months to use your mark in commerce. Once you use your mark (i.e. you sell a product or service the mark with a proof of purchase), you must file a Statement of Use (SOU). If you need more time, you can file for a six-month extension (added fee).
There are several online legal services vying for your hard earned dollars that are more than happy to help you file your trademark registration. We compare them here.
One of the primary benefits to registering online is the time and hassle it will save you down the road. Not only because the process is lengthy but there are many potential legal pitfalls if you don’t do an extensive search. Online services can track and remind you of trademark renewals, which happen at the 5 year and 10 year marks, automatically.
It’s important to keep your name, email, and address up to date on your registration so you’re informed of a timely matter of renewals and other actions.
Because unregistered trademark conflicts can get fuzzy down the road (i.e. lawsuits for similar or potentially confusing trademarks), it’s important to make sure you have a clear path with your mark to avoid future legal actions. These lawsuits could cost you much more than your initial investment to conduct a thorough search and legally register your mark. For this reason, we recommend investing in an attorney or an online legal service at a minimum.
Example Trademark Registration With Rocket Lawyer
For the sake of example, we’re going to take one of our top-ranked online legal services and run you through the process of registering a trademark online. Simply fill out a series of questions online about your business and trademark (no login required). Rocket Lawyer drafts up a sample trademark application document in minutes. You can create an account to save progress and download and print anytime. And their legal experts are available to review your application and provide any additional assistance or answer any questions along the way.
There are legal services for which a local attorney makes more sense than an online service, but for TM registration, an online service can do the job well.
Pro Tip: you can save money by conducting this search yourself on TESS (the USPTO’s online trademark database search engine). You’ll want to conduct a “Basic Word Mark Search” of “Live” records and hit “Submit Query” as illustrated in the graphic below. Be very thorough – if your submitted mark is “confusingly similar” to existing marks your application may get turned down and you won’t get a refund of your filing fee. When in doubt, considering opting for an attorney or online service to help you conduct the search.
For an idea or invention, you’ll want to file a patent. We’ve got you covered – visit our guide on the 5 steps to filing a patent to protect your invention to get started.
Do you feel comfortable using an online service over an attorney for trademark registrations?
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