Names are the foundation on which you build your business. The core of your brand is a name your customers know and associate with your company’s qualities. Therefore, choosing and trademarking a name should be an essential part of your initial research and brainstorming before you start your business.
As you consider a name for your small business, you might want to consider trademarking your name as well to create extra protection for your business and your intellectual property.
Trademarking a name has benefits that extend beyond registering your name. You can use the trademark protection legally if anyone else attempts to claim your trademark name. A trademark also provides federal protection, meaning that your name is protected all across the country.
The process of trademarking a name takes only three steps, but there’s a lot to learn within those steps. Here is what you should know about how to trademark a name.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is some kind of design, phrase, or symbol that identifies your goods or services. Trademark can refer to either your product or service, although it is legally known as a service mark when it identifies a service.
Once you begin to use a unique word or symbol, that becomes a trademark. As your intellectual property, you automatically have some limited control over that symbol and how others can use it, at least within your particular region.
To register a trademark, however, means securing greater legal protection for your brand. A registered trademark can help you guard against counterfeit and fraud, as you will have federal protection to keep your trademark from being used by others without your permission.
Where Do You Submit a Trademark Application?
A federal trademark in the U.S. is registered at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The simplest way is to submit your trademark application online through the USPTO website.
You’ll need to set up an account with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office first, and then you can file your application and pay a fee for registration.
Why Should You Trademark a Name?
A trademark provides national protection for your name, and it will remain in the USPTO database once registered. While you can label your name with “TM” or “SM” at any time, you can start using the registered mark “Ⓡ” to indicate that it is an officially registered trademark.
Trademark registration gives you total control over your brand identity. No one else can use your name, so you can shape your own small business brand marketing strategy without interference.
How to File a Trademark Application?
Obtaining your trademark involves three main steps: searching, applying, and filing. You’ll have to complete a few forms to submit your application and complete the registration process as well.
The place to get started is in the USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System. Before claiming a trademark, you need to see if anyone else has already declared and filed a similar or identical trademark. Search through the database and make sure yours is unique.
Complete Your Applications
Before applying, you’ll need to check on your filing basis. You must have a legally legitimate basis for your use of the trademark and your registration. You have to meet one or more of these requirements:
- You are currently using the trademark for a commercial purpose
- You have an established intention to use the trademark for commercial purposes in the near future
- You already have registered or are applying for the same trademark in a country outside the United States.
You’ll refer to this filing basis throughout the application process and will have to provide paperwork to demonstrate it.
You’ll also need to identify what exactly constitutes the unique symbol, sound, or mark you’re registering for at the application stage. You must also specify the good or service your trademark or servicemark will apply to.
Then comes time to submit your applications and any follow-ups requested later. There are several forms you’ll need to file:
- Initial application forms
- Response forms
- Intent-to-use forms
- Statement of use
What Should you Provide on a Trademark Application?
Your trademark application must include all pertinent information about the trademark itself and the product or service it represents. The USPTO needs to know how to recognize the trademark, as well as your justified commercial basis for needing the trademark.
You’ll provide a name of who owns the trademark, along with your business entity type, mailing address, and other location information like city, state, and zip code. For trademark information, you’ll need to include the date of its first use. When did you begin using this trademark, and how long has it been associated with your company?
How Long Does it Take to Register a Trademark?
Registering a trademark may take 12 to 18 months. At first, the USPTO will review your application to ensure it meets the basic minimum requirements. Once approved at this stage, it will be passed on to an examining attorney who will more closely investigate the trademark and the circumstances around its use.
While the process is long, the USPTO examiners may reach out at any time to request further documentation. To avoid missing deadlines, you should regularly check online with Trademark Status & Document Retrieval to check application status (TSDR).
How Much Does Trademarking a Name Cost?
The USPTO offers two forms for trademark options: TEAS Plus and TEAS Standard. TEAS Plus costs $250 per class of goods or services, which you’ll pay with the initial application. TEAS Standard costs $350 per class of goods/services.
Those are the basic trademark fees and payment requirements, but you may see some additional fees depending on your filling basis. If you need to request extra time later r submit extra paperwork, those considerations will also require extra fees.
How Long Does a Federal Registration Last?
Federal trademarks last ten years before they require renewal. As time goes on, you can also file ongoing documentation to prove that you are still using the trademark and request that it stay in effect. If you continue to submit the proper paperwork and pay the fees, your federal registration can be indefinite.
Follow IP policy events listed online by the USPTO to stay up-to-date on any changing policies around intellectual property laws.
Trademark questions? Consult with a professional!
The trademark registration process can be expensive and time-consuming, but it is worth it for the legal protections it provides. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from a lawyer or a financial professional for help considering the benefits of a trademark or to help you complete the paperwork required.