Registering for a federal trademark for your business can help protect your business’s intellectual property and depending upon your intellectual property, can be a relatively straightforward process.
What is the difference between a trademark, patent or copyright? This is a common question, and the realm of intellectual property can be confusing; what do I have a trademark, patent or copyright?
A trademark is a word, phrase, design or a combination that identifies your goods or services, distinguishes them from the goods and services of others and indicates that your company is the source of the goods or services. Think logos, taglines and company symbols. So, why register your trademark? The benefits of registering trademarks is that the mark is protected from being registered by others without permission and it helps prevent other companies or individuals from using a trademark that is similar to what you have registered with related goods or services.
A patent is for technical inventions such as mechanical processes, chemical compositions (like pharmaceutical drugs), complex machinery or machine designs that are new, unique and usable in some type of industry. Examples are things like the internal combustion engine, bluetooth, and malware systems. Registering patents safeguards inventions from other companies or individuals copying, making, using or selling the invention without the consent of the inventor or owner of the patent.
A copyright is an artistic, literary or intellectually created work; things like music, movies, books, software code, photographs and paintings are good examples of copyrights. They are original and exist in a tangible form or medium such as paper, canvas, film or digital. Registering a copyright protects the owners exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute and perform or display the created work, while also preventing other companies or individuals from copying or exploiting the work of art without getting permission from the copyright owner or holder.
If you think you’ve created a logo, word, phrase or design that could be valuable to your business and help build your brand, it’s time to start thinking about getting a federal registration. There are several steps you should take in order to register the mark and make sure there isn’t already an existing trademark that may be similar to what you’re looking to register. Here’s a suggestion of the steps for how to register a federal trademark.
Do A Trademark Search
Before you get into the actual filing process it’s a good idea to do a trademark search in order to make sure your mark can be registered. There are numerous ways this can be done; you can do it yourself, you can hire an attorney to do it for you, or you can hire a third party company who conducts those searches. A good place to start is simply an internet search for the name or similar images to see what stands out and if there’s anything that looks similar. You can also use the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) search system, Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to see what comes back from already registered marks.
Fill Out The Trademark Application
You’ll usually want to apply for registration on the USPTO’s Principal Register, this provides the most protection for your trademark. The Principal Register is reserved for trademarks that are considered under the law to be distinctive, meaning they aren’t easily confused with other trademarks and are easily recognizable as identifying the source of the goods or services. There is also a Supplemental Register, which is for trademarks that aren’t considered to be distinctive, but have the potential to become distinctive over time. The Supplemental Register is for marks that don’t meet the requirements to be on the Principal Register, and is not where you want to end up. You can access and complete the application online using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).
When you’re getting started it’s important to know what your filing basis will be. There are two options when it comes to choosing a filing basis: use in commerce and intent to use in the future.
Use in commerce is the option you would select if you are currently using the trademark at the time the application will be filed. It can’t be use solely for getting the trademark registered, it will need to be used in the regular, ordinary course of business in order to qualify under this basis.
The other option, intent to use, is what’s available for applicants who haven’t yet used the mark in commerce, but do intend to in the future. You will eventually need to file evidence of actual use of the mark in commerce in order to get the protection. If you don’t or are unable to show actual use your intent to use application will be canceled.
Once you have determined how to handle the principal register concern and which type of use you will be applying for, you can fill out the application. So what’s in the application? Here is a rundown the information you will need to provide:
- Name and address of the owner; remember this may be your company
- What type of entity are you (LLC, corporation, partnership, etc.) and what state did you form it in
- Name and address of individual the USPTO should correspond with regarding the application
- A drawing of the trademark, which will vary depending on whether you are registering a standard work mark or a mark with designs
- A description of the design elements of the trademark if it’s stylized
- A list of the goods and services that mark will be used with
- A specimen, which show how you have been using the mark in commerce, if you are using the already existing use filing basis
- Which international classes the goods and services fall under; there are 45 classes
- The date on which the trademark was first used, if you are using the filing basis of currently in use
- A declaration that you have provide truthful information
The final step is to pay the fee. You can complete the entire process online using the USPTO TEAS system. Fees range from $250 per class to $350 per class.
Once the application has been processed it will be assigned to a reviewing attorney in the USPTO office. The attorney will review for any conflicting trademarks or other issues. There are commonly questions that need to be answered or additional information that needs to be provided, and in the event of this an office action will be issued. Be sure to respond to these in a timely manner, otherwise your application will be abandoned.
Once the mark makes its way through the application process it will be published in the Federal Register for a period of 30 days to give the public a chance to object if they think the mark will harm or infringe them. After the 30 days are up, assuming there has been no objection, you trademark will be approved and listed in the USPTO database.
Have questions about trademarks, trademark registration or intellectual property? Reach out to us for a free consultation.