Almost 600,000 trademark filings get submitted to the USPTO each year, and this number is growing. If you are thinking about starting a new business, then you need to be one of these people. Not sure what a trademark is or what it can protect?
We’ve created this beginner guide to help you get started protecting your startup.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is any mark that distinguishes your company from other companies. This could be a slogan, or an image, logo, or name. It could even be a specific color or sound.
Some good examples would be the Nike check, Bounty’s slogan “the quicker picker upper”, or even Darth Vader’s breathing. The one key element that all of these things have in common is that you think of the institution behind that symbolic image.
Which Came First? The Name or the Company?
When starting your company, you will want to think of a name and logo. The catch is, you don’t want to spend time and resources creating a whole branding plan without first doing research. You need to make sure that no one is already using your desired name and logo.
The best thing you can do is to work with an intellectual property lawyer. They will help you confirm whether or not your desired name and logo are available.
How to Get a Trademark
To have your symbol, logo, phrase, or word trademarked it needs to satisfy to requirements.
- You must currently or intend to use the mark in commerce
- The mark must be distinctive to your business
The first step in registering your trademark is to perform a search of the system. This is to make sure that no one has already registered a similar or even identical mark in the category you intend to do business.
You will then need to create your application. This will include information pertaining to the category of goods and services where you will use the mark. You need to include the date when you first began using the mark in commerce.
You will need to describe your mark and provide an example of it in use. To use an earlier example, Darth Vader’s breathing is trademarked by using this description, “sound of rhythmic mechanical human breathing created by breathing through a scuba tank regulator.”
It will take about six months for your application to get reviewed. You will either get an approval or rejection with reasoning as to why.
If you have an internet business, don’t register your business name with the web extension, unless you plan on also registering your name without it. If you only register the web address, then there is nothing to stop someone from registering your name with a different web extension.
You should also not designate a specific design of your trademark. That way you get the broadest protection possible.
When to Consult an Attorney
While you could submit your application for a trademark on your own, it is best to seek the assistance of an intellectual property attorney. They can help guide you through the search process and advise you of alternatives if your trademark is too similar to another or too generic.
Seeking the aid of a knowledgeable attorney means that you can be confident that your application is filled out correctly and reduce the risk of delay.
Defend Your Trademark
It isn’t enough to simply have your trademark. The first thing you need to do is to make sure you maintain your registrations. The USPTO will not remind you that your registration is about to expire. This is when having an attorney monitor your registrations is helpful.
The second thing you need to do is monitor your marks. When you find someone infringing on your trademark, you need to pursue them fully. This is when your legal team will go to work to legally force the infringer to stop using your trademarked material.
Have your attorney pursue everyone. Letting even smaller infringers continue can jeopardize your ability to fight larger ones. It is a “use it or lose it” sort of mentality.
Contact us today and let us help you protect your business with a trademark.