You’ve likely seen it before. A word or logo with a TM symbol or circle R. Well, that’s a trademark, a type of intellectual property. And you’re about to learn about how you can use them to achieve your business goals. So read on!
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others.
The term “trademark” is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks. A service mark refers to just a mark used to identify one’s service (e.g., Jiffy Lube for oil changes).
Do I need to register my trademark?
You need to register your trademark to protect your investment in your brand. After you launch your product, you will be referring to your trademark in advertisments, website, Amazon, online stores, and just about everywhere.
Registering your trademark with the USPTO preserves your trademark rights throughout the United States regardless of whether the mark has been used in the local geographic region. It prevents others from starting to use the same or similar mark in a different region and expanding into your region.
During the trademark registration process, the USPTO will conduct a search of the registered and pending trademarks and let you know if your trademark might be infringing on a senior trademark. You can address this while you still have time.
How do you register a trademark?
You file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov). Before filing, take the following steps:
Step 1: Clear the mark for adoption and use
You can clear the mark for adoption and use by searching the USPTO TESS system for other marks that are similar to your mark and goods.
Step 2: Craft the goods and services description
Search for appropriate descriptions for your goods and services at the Trademark ID Manual published by the USPTO. Use the description provided by the USPTO word for word or craft one based on the USPTO’s description.
Step 3: Identify the owner of the mark
The owner of the mark may be an individual or a company. Partnerships should list a corporation as the trademark owner. It prevents one of the partners from owning the trademark and stealing the brand from the non-listed owner. You may want to consider forming two corporations – a use corporation and a IP holding corporation. The IP holding corporation would own the trademark so that if the use corporation is sued for patent and/or trademark infringement, the intellectual property (e.g., patent and trademarks) cannot be sold to pay off damages due to the lawsuit.
Step 4: Apply for the trademark registration with the USPTO
Apply for the trademark registration with the USPTO. You will have to set up a my.uspto.gov account. From there, you can file the trademark application.
How long does it take to get a trademark registration?
The trademark registration process will take at least one year. A trademark application will be examined in about 6 to 9 months after the filing date. If the examiner allows the trademark application, it will be published for others to review and oppose your trademark application. After 30 days, if no one opposes the registration of your trademark application, you must file a statement of use if you haven’t done so already. The trademark application will mature into a trademark registration.
If there are any issues with the trademark application, the process could take longer. Some have taken years to get registered.
When does a trademark registration expire?
A trademark registration never expires so long as you continue to use the mark in commerce. Every 5 to 10 years you must file a declaration of continued use showing to the USPTO that you are still using the mark in commerce.
What is the difference between TM, SM and circle R?
TM refers to an unregistered trademark. SM refers to an unregistered service mark. The circle R refers to a registered trademark or service mark.
You can use TM or SM once you decide to use the mark as your trademark. Often, companies will start to use the TM or SM once a trademark application is filed with the USPTO. You can transition to use of the circle R symbol once your trademark is registered with the USPTO.
What is the cost to register your trademark?
The government fee to file a trademark application will be about $350 per class.