In today’s competitive world, making your business and products readily recognizable to your customers is critical. Trademarks protect your brand and show your investment in your business.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as a “word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” You will likely recognize some of today’s popular trademarks like Band-Aid®, Google, McDonald’s golden arches, and other popular brands’ marks.
A service mark is similar to a trademark, except it’s used with services instead of products.
For a mark to be eligible as a trademark, it must be used in commerce, and the mark must be distinctive. To legally protect your mark, you must register it as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The application process for securing your trademark is lengthy and complicated, which is why so many business owners fail to pursue it. Even the USPTO highly recommends retaining an attorney to help you file a successful application.
Select a distinctive mark that represents your company or brand. For logos, have a graphic designer present it professionally, ensuring that it does not appear generic. For example, if you sell a carbonated beverage like Coca-Cola, you can’t call it “soda.” Something catchy like “Sophia’s Southern Soda” may work because it’s fairly distinctive.
Before investing too much time, check USPTO’s online database of trademarks that have already been registered. That way, if someone else has trademarked “Sophie’s Southern Soda,” your proposed mark will likely be rejected because it’s too similar to the existing trademark.
Before filing for registration, you must choose a legitimate reason for filing your trademark application with USPTO. The two common bases are that the mark is currently used in commerce or that you intend to use the mark in commerce.
First, we help you create a USPTO.gov account which grants you access to the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Second, we apply online through TEAS and pay the application fee. Note that this fee is strictly for submitting the application–it does not guarantee registration or approval.
Once the USPTO determines you have met the filing requirements, it assigns a serial number to the application and forwards it to an examining attorney. This attorney reviews the application and confirms that it complies with all the trademark statutes and regulations.
If the application does not comply for any reason, then USPTO informs you in writing with the reason for rejection. Although there are many reasons why a mark may be rejected, most of them revolve around the mark not being distinctive or causing confusion with existing trademarks.
If the examining attorney concludes that a mark should be registered, they will submit the mark for publication by the USPTO. After the mark has been published, other parties have an opportunity to oppose the registration with USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. If no opposition is filed, the USPTO will register the mark and send you a certificate of registration.
Trademarks are not required by law, but they are absolutely critical to your business. Not only does it prevent other companies from using the same or similar name as your company/products, but it also can protect your customers from buying counterfeit products. A registered trademark also gives you access to federal courts for enforcement actions and the ability to have social media platforms remove infringing content.
Carson Law can assist you in every step of the trademark registration process, from the initial clearance search to filing with the USPTO, appeals, and enforcement. We want your trademark to be successful for your business and will do everything we can to help make that happen.