Trademarks are a useful legal defense mechanism for the brand names and logos associated with your goods and services. A mark distinguishes your goods and services from others, and legally protects your brand from other businesses or individuals that may try to use or reproduce it. Trademarks are different from copyrights and patents because they protect different types of intellectual property. Trademark registration is a long process, but with the right approach, it doesn’t need to be a difficult one.
Step 1: Get Professional Support
Since the trademark registration process is technically a legal proceeding, you must provide accurate information in your application, ensure you meet the requirements, and act within the deadlines. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recommends that you hire an attorney before you take any action. Any mistakes could cost you time and money, and even get you into some legal hot water.
Step 2: Check the Requirements
If you’re certain that you need trademark protection, as opposed to a copyright or patent, you need to make sure your mark can be registered with the USPTO. Registration is most commonly denied when trademarks are likely to be confused with a mark that has already been registered or submitted by another party in a pending application. The USPTO looks at each application on a case-by-case basis to determine whether there is a “likelihood of confusion,” which can only exist if the two similar-looking marks also indicate very similar products.
Step 3: Choose A Strong Mark
Trademark registration can be denied for a number of other reasons, including the enforceability of your mark. Part of this involves avoiding similarity with other marks, but the USPTO also differentiates between “strong” and “weak” marks. A strong mark is typically very unique or distinctive, making it easier (and cheaper) to defend from a legal standpoint. Generic trademarks, and marks that simply describe the product or service, tend to be considered weaker. Registration can also be denied if the mark is a surname, contains offensive language, shares the title of a movie or book, and more, so do your research ahead of time.
Step 4: Do A Trademark Search
The USPTO doesn’t tell us beforehand if your trademark is registrable, so it’s up to you to make sure your mark has a strong chance of approval. We start by doing a trademark search to evaluate whether your mark is likely to be confused with another and/or whether your mark is weak or difficult to protect.
Step 5: Complete the Forms
The registration application is lengthy and a bit convoluted. The name of the legal entity that owns the trademark, whether it’s an individual, a corporation, or an LLC, must be provided. A clear depiction of the mark, a list of the specific goods and/or services connected to your mark, t an explanation of the basis for filing and a specimen to show how the trademark is used in commerce must all be provided..
Step 6: File and Wait
After paying the filing fee and filing the application, the USPTO has up to 3 months just to assign an attorney to your application. The entire process can take 6-8 months, or longer, if the USPTO issues any action or notices.
Step 7: Maintain Your Trademark Registration
Once the USPTO issues a registration and makes your trademark request official, you are responsible for protecting your trademark from other businesses or individuals that may try to use it and certain maintenance documents must be filed on a regular basis. If the required maintenance is not kept up, it is possible for the registration to be cancelled or expire.
A knowledgeable attorney can provide you with the best chance of success for obtaining a trademark registration. Ser & Associates knows how to navigate the registration process and will guide you every step of the way.