A trademark grants legal protection and ownership to a brand name, logo, or slogan. With a trademark, your intellectual property can be made bulletproof – immune to competitors and bad faith actors who wish to capitalize on your creation for their benefit.
While a trademark is not necessary for all businesses, especially not at the beginning, it can provide additional protection and respectability for your brand. When people see a trademark symbol, they understand that not only is the item spoken for by another party, but it is protected by the law. Owning a trademark is like planting a flag.
What Can and Can’t You Trademark?
Trademarks can be placed on names, logos, slogans, or certain unique phrases, images, designs, and sometimes color schemes. The item you wish to trademark must be unique and not too similar to anything already previously registered with the federal database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
A book, film, song, piece of literature, or artwork cannot be trademarked. These mentioned items are subject to copyright protections instead. Similarly, you cannot trademark an invention. To legally protect and claim ownership of an invention of some sort, you should apply for a patent.
What is the General Trademark Application Process?
Once you know what type of trademark you want for your goods or services, you must perform a search to determine whether your trademarked name isn’t already registered by another party. You can search the federal database of trademarked names by using the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). You are encouraged not to only look for your name but other similar names. Originality and uniqueness are key.
At this point, you may apply for a trademark with the government. The trademark application must include:
- The name, address, and citizenship of the applicant. If the applicant is a business, then all business owners must list their information.
- If you are seeking to trademark a logo, then some drawing or mockup must be included.
- You must provide a thorough description of that which you wish to trademark and a list of services, goods, and uses that the trademark will come to represent.
- An example of previous use of the mark.
- All proper paperwork, along with dated signatures.
- Any necessary fees relating to filing a trademark application.
Once you’ve finished the application, you must decide how to file it. The TEAS Plus option is faster and cheaper but has less customization than TEAS Standard application process.
What if a Previously Registered Trademark is Similar to Yours?
If the USPTO determines your name or logo is too similar to a previously registered trademark, then they will likely deny the application. If minor changes are needed, you may be able to fix matters so that the application can go forward.
It is possible that, at some later date, another company may issue a cease-and-desist order in relation to your trademark because they believe it is too similar to theirs. It’s important to strive for uniqueness.
Is an Attorney Required for Trademark Registration?
As of 2019, the USPTO requires all foreign nationals to acquire the legal representation of a US attorney when filing for a trademark in this country. US residents and citizens do not need a lawyer. However, an attorney is highly recommended.