How to Apply for a Trademark: The Process Explained

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Are you starting a new business?

While there are many things you need to keep in mind when launching a new business, one thing you don’t want to forget to do is to apply for a trademark. Applying for a trademark offers your brand an elevated level of exclusivity.

However, the trademark application process doesn’t take place overnight. Read on to learn how to apply for a trademark.

What is a Trademark?

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark is a phrase, word, or design that identifies a particular good or service. The trademark helps to distinguish the good or service from other ones available on the market.

Coca-Cola® is an example of a trademark. A trademark is a type of intellectual property. Other types of intellectual property include patents and copyrights.

Trademarks provide legal protection for your brand, and they also help guard your brand against counterfeiting or fraud. Trademarks help customers recognize you in the marketplace and distinguish your brand from other brands.

Many people mistakenly assume that obtaining a trademark means you have full ownership over a particular word or phrase and that others can’t use the word or phrase.

However, trademarks don’t give you the right to a word or phrase. Rather, they give you the right to use the word or phrase for your specific goods and services.

Registered Trademark vs. Trademark Ownership

As soon as you begin using your trademark for goods and services, you become a trademark owner. While you establish rights with your trademark when you start to use it, these rights are somewhat limited.

These rights also only apply to the geographic area for which you service. If you want stronger rights that apply across the nation, then you need to register your trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

While you’re not required by law to register your trademark, doing so will provide you with broader rights. For example, let’s say you sell handmade soap at a local farmer’s market. When you begin your soapmaking business, you may use an unregistered trademark to build familiarity with your brand.

As your business continues to grow, you may wish to apply for a federal trademark so you have nationwide rights over your trademark.

How to Apply for a Trademark

Here are the steps you need to take to apply for a trademark:

1. Consider Hiring a Trademark Attorney

Before you begin the trademark application process, consider hiring a trademark attorney.

A trademark attorney can help you conduct trademark research to ensure that your trademark is unique. They can also help with the application process to ensure you don’t look over any steps or legal technicalities. Any mistakes you make when applying for a trademark could cause a delay in approval.

If you’re trying to get your business up and running soon and want immediate brand protection, time is of the essence. An attorney can also help you avoid trademark infringements and legal issues that may arise if you choose a trademark that’s similar to one that’s already registered.

2. Select a Trademark

After hiring a trademark attorney, the next step is to select the trademark. One of the biggest things you need to take into consideration is the mark format.

In other words, you need to decide if you want a sound mark, character mark, or design mark. You also need to identify the exact goods and services for which the trademark will apply.

You also need to look into whether the mark you’ve chosen is registerable (your attorney can help with this), and how difficult it will be to protect the mark based on its strength.

You can use the USPTO database to search for similar trademarks and determine if anyone has already claimed trademark rights in the design that’s similar to yours.

3. Prep and Submit Your Application

After you select your trademark, you can begin to prepare and submit your application. To do so, you’ll need to head to the USPTO website and file an application online.

To file your application, you’ll need the following information:

  • Name and address
  • Citizenship status
  • Type of legal entity
  • A drawing of the trademark and description of the trademark
  • The international class of your goods and services
  • The date you first used the mark
  • A verified statement or declaration which attests to the truth of the information in the application
  • The required fee

Once you file your application, you’ll have the opportunity to monitor your application status. You can do this through USPTO’s Trademark Status and Document Retrieval system.

You should plan to check the status of your application every six months after initially filing. Otherwise, you may miss a filing deadline. If there is a change to your physical address or email address, make sure to update this information immediately.

4. Receive Approval or Denial

Once your application has been reviewed, the USPTO office will either deny it or approve it. If your application is approved, the USPTO will approve the mark for publication in the “Official Gazette.”

This is a weekly publication the USPTO releases so others can dispute trademark releases. If someone has reason to believe your trademark will cause damage to their business, they have 30 days to dispute within the publishing of the Official Gazette.

If your trademark application gets denied, the USPTO will lay out the reasons for the denial. You’ll then have the opportunity to fix your application.

Time to Apply for a Trademark

Now that you know how to apply for a trademark, it’s time to begin the application steps. As you can see, trademarks are very valuable, and applying for one can really help your brand stand out.

If you’re looking for more ways to develop brand recognition, check back in with our blog.

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