A trademark can protect your right to your company’s intellectual property. While the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) doesn’t enforce trademarks, getting a trademark can allow you to take someone to court if they’re misusing, misrepresenting, or downright stealing your trademarked logo, symbol, words, or other marks.
But how do you get a trademark registration? It’s not as hard as it sounds. You have to search the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to make sure nothing like your trademark has been registered before. Then you need to file a trademark application with the USPTO. If the USPTO finds legal issues with your application or your marks, you’ll need to resolve those before your registration can be approved. Even after your application is approved, you’ll still have to wait at least a few months to make sure no one opposes your application. Here’s how to get a trademark registration.
Search the TESS Database for Your Logo, Symbol, or Words
If the words, logo, symbol, or other proposed mark is too similar to an existing trademark, your application for registration will be denied. So, it’s important to search the TESS database for your trademark, or marks that are similar to your trademark, before you begin putting together an application. You can put in words and images that you hope to obtain trademark registration for, as well as words and images that are similar to your desired trademark.
File Your Trademark Application
Once you’ve determined that your trademark is up for grabs, you can put together your application. You can file an intent-to-use trademark application for a mark that you haven’t used in commerce yet, but generally, you’ll need to prove that you’ve used your mark in commerce in order to register a trademark. This could mean that you’ll need to show photos of your mark on product packaging, marketing materials, company uniforms, delivery vehicles, and so on.
Trademark applications typically have 10 sections. They ask for:
- Your name and address
- A name and address to which the USPTO can send correspondence
- Your legal entity and citizenship
- A picture of the mark (or the words to be trademarked, if applicable)
- A list of the goods and services to be covered by the trademark
- The class of the proposed trademark
- A detailed description of the mark
- The date you first used the mark, and examples of the mark being used in commerce
- Your signature or that of your authorized representative
- The application fee
Fees for a trademark application start at $250, but you have to pay for each class you want to register your trademark as. Trademark classes describe the categories into which different products and services fall, such as “medical supplies” or “hand tools”. It’s because of the trademark class system that some words and logos can be trademarked by different companies. The word “Dove” is trademarked by both a soap company and a chocolate company, for example, because the products covered by the two trademarks fall into different classes.
Respond to Your Office Action
Once you have submitted your application for trademark registration, a patent attorney at the USPTO will review it for legal issues, either with the application itself or with the proposed trademarks. If the USPTO attorney finds legal issues with your application or your trademark, you’ll receive an office action laying out the problems. You’ll need to respond to this office action before the deadline or your application will expire unapproved. You will probably need a trademark lawyer to properly address any legal issues with your application or trademark.
Wait for Opposition
Once you have addressed the legal issues with your application or trademark, the USPTO will grant approval and you’ll move forward into the final step of the process, publication. The USPTO will publish your trademark in its weekly publication. For 30 days from the date of first publication by the USPTO, anyone who opposes your trademark registration will be able to either file an opposition or file for an extension of the opposition period.
You will find out about three or four months after your trademark is published whether anyone opposes your trademark or not. If someone has opposed it, you will have the opportunity to defend your trademark with the help of a trademark lawyer. If no one has opposed it, your trademark registration will be granted.
Getting a trademark registration can take some time, but it’s usually a fairly straightforward process as long as your proposed trademark is truly original. Make the effort to protect your company’s brand, especially if you need federal trademark protection.