Many new and small businesses wonder when is the right time to trademark their logos and what the process entails. Registering a trademark (or simply “mark”) is a legal proceeding processed through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There are many steps involved, and even if done correctly, there is no guarantee of approval. This blog will help you know what to expect.
The first thing to consider is whether or not the trademark is necessary. It’s not required, but it will enhance your rights. A federally registered mark gives you the presumption of OWNERSHIP. It establishes your brand, distinguishing you from others with similar goods/services, and prevents others from registering similar marks in your same field. However, once a trademark is registered, only you can protect against infringement - the USPTO doesn’t police use.
The questions you need to ask and answer before deciding whether to seek a trademark are:
If you are confident your mark has strength and your goods/services are defined, than you are ready to move forward with the application process. Your application must meet many legal requirements before your trademark can be registered, and it’s important to note that any information you submit will become public record and remain searchable in USPTO databases and internet search engines.
The application can be completed without an attorney, however if you can afford it, hiring a lawyer that specializes in trademark law to guide you through the process is recommended. Of course, educating yourself on what to expect, with or without an attorney, is important. There are lots of educational materials to be found on the USPTO website as well as helpful YouTube videos that break down the following basic steps in the trademark application process:
If you’ve navigated the above steps successfully, it’s time to file online! Filing using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) is the quickest and most affordable method. You will be able to track the status of your application from the portal.
It can take up to a year to complete the entire trademark process and be fully registered. The initial application review can take 4-6 months, and then there are mandatory publication notices that must be sent out to see if any other companies “object” to your use of the mark (a process which can take several more months to complete).
Once you get that coveted trademark symbol, you should take a moment to celebrate! Whoohoo! But after the party’s over, don’t forget that you must monitor the use of your mark and protect against infringement yourself. Trademarks represent your brand, your company, your hard work, so don’t be shy to police its use in the marketplace.