How to Trademark a Name

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How Do You Legally Trademark a Name?

You legally trademark a name via the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Trademark registration protects your brand’s intellectual property, including words, logos, and slogans. Other steps include performing trademark searches, submitting trademark applications, and following up on information requests from the USPTO.

Below, we’ve outlined the seven essential steps to take if you want to trademark a name legally:

Step 1. Conduct a Preliminary Trademark Search

A USPTO examining attorney will verify that your proposed trademark is not identical or too similar to another’s after filing your application. Therefore, you should postpone the application until you clear your trademark via the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

TESS offers five options when conducting a trademark search, including:

  1. Basic word mark searches
  2. Structured word and/or design mark searches
  3. Free-form word and/or design mark searches
  4. Browse dictionary
  5. Search the Official Gazette publication date or registration date

If you find identical or too similar matches, you will need to go back to the drawing board for fresh ideas. TESS is free to use, which can make brainstorming sessions more efficient.

Step 2. Perform a Comprehensive Search

Did your preliminary search results lead you to believe you have an original name? If so, your next step is to perform a comprehensive trademark search. A comprehensive trademark search is far more intensive than a preliminary search.

Entrepreneurs opt to hire trademark lawyers at this point since clearing your mark requires an exhaustive search of:

  • Common law databases
  • Coordinated classes
  • International databases
  • Internet domain names
  • Professional clubs and organizations
  • Search engines
  • Social media accounts
  • State trademark databases
  • Trade journals and publications
  • USPTO databases

While you may discover hundreds of similar trademarks in use, you must cull through the results and define which trademarks you are prohibited from using. Remember: the amount of effort and money spent on a trademark search should be proportionate to the scope of your business.

Work with an attorney to conduct a trademark search. You will also receive a legal opinion on the legality of your proposed mark. This could prove helpful if a future dispute arises.

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Step 3. Create a USPTO.gov Account

File a trademark application via the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). To start, you must create an account with an email address and password. Once registered, you will have access to the application materials necessary to begin the application process.

Step 4. Submit Your Trademark Application

The trademark application asks you to provide basic information about the mark’s owner. For example, if a business owns it, you must provide the entity type and the state or country of incorporation.

You will then select the basis upon submitting the application, indicating current or intent to use. Next, you write down the mark exactly as it appears on your products or services or upload a logo if you are submitting a design mark application.

If your mark is already in use, you must choose a classification category and describe your offerings. Each class requires a specimen, which can be a screenshot of your products or services displaying the mark as it would appear to a consumer. Upon completion, pay the applicable filing fees and submit.

Step 5. Respond to USPTO Inquiries

After submitting your application, a USPTO examining attorney will be assigned to the case. They will review your application and determine if you meet all of the registration requirements. They may contact you for additional information or to ask questions, which means you should follow up on their requests as soon as possible.

If they find application errors, they could issue an initial refusal. However, an office action will identify any mistakes in your application and allow you to respond, typically within six months.

Step 6. Wait for Approval

The USPTO publishes the mark in its Trademark Official Gazette (TMOG) for 30 days. Anyone who believes your trademark registration will harm their business may file an opposition during this period. If no one opposes your application, the USPTO will register three months after your trademark is published in TMOG.

Step 7. Get Your Registration Certificate.

After registering your trademark, you can use it as you wish or license it to others for a royalty fee. A trademark registration certificate authenticates your mark and your ownership of it therein. The most effective method of establishing this arrangement is through a trademark agreement or trademark assignment agreement.

Trademark Process Explained

The trademark process involves the applicant proving they have established their due diligence to clear the mark. Further, the registration is proper for the facts supplied in your application. You should seriously consider working with a lawyer since failure to clear your mark could come back to haunt you.

Example of the Trademark Process

Here is an example of how the trademark process works:

  • Terrance Nutter owns a dairy farm in Wisconsin
  • Business hasn’t been so great over the last few years since more people are drinking dairy-free milk alternatives
  • He eventually dives into the almond milk market and develops a product called “Nutter’s Magic Almond Milk”
  • Terrance wants to protect his brand by trademarking this name
  • He clears his trademark with trademark lawyers, and they apply on his behalf while handling any follow-up request
  • However, Terrance does take a picture of the almond milk carton since he has decided to start production
  • Four months later, he receives confirmation from his lawyer that the trademark was approved and that he should receive his certificate within 30 days
  • Terrance Nutter also asks his lawyer to monitor trademarks in exchange for a fee in case another party intentionally or unintentionally commits trademark infringement

This scenario is hypothetical, but it illustrates an important point. It is relatively straightforward to trademark a name when you avoid legal mistakes. For example, Terrance took an idea, cleared it, completed an application with an attorney, and mitigated the chance of a delay.

This web page also explains the trademark process.

How Much Does It Cost to Trademark a Name?

It can cost between $250 for TEAS Plus registration per trademark and $350 for TEAS standard. The USPTO still accepts paper applications via postal mail. However, the fees for a paper trademark application can cost up to $750, so it is quite a bit more expensive if you choose that route.

Is it Worth it to Trademark a Name?

Yes, it is worth it to trademark a name. Otherwise, another company could develop the same or similar idea and have no idea it exists, especially when it remains unused. In addition, you could lose all legal rights to an original trademark without sufficient evidence to prove ownership usage rights.

Trademark vs. Copyright

The primary difference between trademark vs. copyright is that trademarks protect company brand symbols, logos, words, and designs. In contrast, copyrights protect creative works, such as films, poetry, artwork, websites, and choreography. If you want to protect a business name, ensure you go with trademark registration.

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