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Trademarks are a great way to protect the essence of what makes your company special. A trademark is a great way to ensure that your company’s brand elements remain yours for exclusive use, from design elements to slogans. You may want to consider registering your trademarks to receive additional legal rights as well.

Below, we’ve detailed what business owners should know about trademarks and intellection property protection:

What is a Trademark?

Trademarks are a form of intellectual property protection for brands. They signify that a company protected its recognizable signs, designs, or expressions. Business owners can denote trademarks with the TM symbol, or ™, on product and service marks.

Here is an article that defines trademarks.

Purpose of a Trademark

The purpose of a trademark is to prevent competitors from infringing upon your company’s trade dress . Trade dress is the portfolio of brand elements that make your company unique, including logos, slogans, and more. Registered trademarks offer additional legal protection by giving you the authority to file claims against infringers.

Trademark vs. Copyright

A trademark protects items that distinguish one business from another, whereas a copyright protects original work. Affixing a trademark symbol to the element creates a trademark. On the other hand, you receive copyright protection upon creation.

Trademark vs. Patent

Patents allow inventors to protect new ideas or prevent others from commercially exploiting those ideas without permission. On the other hand, Trademarks are unconcerned with how new inventions work. Instead, trademarks would protect the branding and trade dress if a business commercially sold the invention.

Here is an article that goes further into trademarks.

What is Trademark Registration?

Trademark registration is the formal legal process of staking a claim over a name, symbol, figure, letter, word, logo, or a combination of these. You can also include scent and sound in trademark registration. A company uses a trademark to identify its goods and services from others.

Registering a trademark is essential to asserting your foothold over your brand and associated design elements. This action supports a long-term brand strategy.

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What is a Trademark Search?

A trademark search tells brand owners whether they have the right to use their intended mark. Brand owners can use a trademark search to determine if they can register a mark.

Companies may have to adjust their brand strategy accordingly based on the results of a trademark search. Before using a trademark commercially, conducting a trademark search is critical for developing a successful brand strategy and can save owners time and money in the long run.

Here is another article also about trademarks and searches.

How To File a Trademark

A trademark is a way to prevent other companies from using your brand name or logos when selling products or services. Consumers can also quickly recognize a product or service as belonging to a specific company.

It’s important to remember that a trademark can protect not everything. You can’t trademark generic words or phrases, for example, unless rarely used.

Furthermore, you cannot trademark anything that already has a trademark. Trademarks can last indefinitely if you continue to use them, file documents, and pay fees every ten years or so.

Below, we’ve outlined the seven steps for how to file a trademark:

Step 1. Prep Your Trademark Application

You’ll need to know if your trademark can be registered before you apply. Check the database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for assurance.

Get started by heading to the USPTO application website. Then go to print the forms you’ll need for your trademark application . While you can submit your application digitally, having a physical copy ensures that you comply with the rules of evidence.

A physical copy is also helpful in case a dispute arises.

You may want to hire a trademark lawyer at this point to assist you with the process. While residents of the United States are not required to hire an attorney, it is strongly recommended due to the various legal complexities. Making legal mistakes can end up costing you far more than the application itself, so legal representation is a worthy investment.

Step 2. Ensure Your Application Is In Compliance With Trademark Law

Once you’ve collected all of your forms and are ready to submit, ensure that your application complies with all legal requirements. Trademark law is vast and complicated, even for a relatively simple designation. You could also miss nuances and rules, so legal help is always vital to the best possible outcome.

For example, your trademark must be:

  • Federally registerable
  • Identifiable
  • Filed properly

Also, keep in mind that you must comply with all deadlines because this is a legal proceeding. You could also run your documentation by trademark application lawyers to support an approval.

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Step 3. Work with the USPTO Examining Attorney

After you’ve submitted your application, you’ll need to keep an eye on its progress. This strategy will inform you of your next steps and deadlines of importance.

The application is sent to a USPTO examining attorney when moving your application forward. This individual will look over your application, look for any conflicts, and see if you followed all applicable rules and statutes.

The attorney may deny your application in some matters. If that’s the case, they’ll send you a letter explaining why and what you need to do to fix it. You must respond quickly if this occurs to ensure the best possible outcome for your situation.

Step 4. Receive Approval or Rejection

After application review, the USPTO inform you of their decision. The decision is either an approval or denial.

If your trademark is approved, they will publish it in the “Official Gazette,” a weekly publication of the USPTO. This publication allows aggrieved parties to respond and file an opposition. You’ll also have to endure a separate legal process if this happens to you.

If everything goes well, the USPTO will issue you a certificate of registration.

Step 5. Defend Your Legal Rights

Many people mistakenly believe that the process is complete once you have the certificate in your hands. Unfortunately, that’s not the case yet.

To keep the registration active, you’ll need to keep filing specific maintenance documents. If you don’t keep up with your trademark, it will be canceled or expire. When this situation arises, you’ll have to reapply for protection.

Step 6. Add the TM Symbol for Enhanced IP Protection

The final step is to add the TM symbol to your trademarks. This designation lets competitors and the general public know not to use your works. You don’t have to add the symbol to invoke protections, but you need to give infringers a chance to remove content if you choose not to use it.

Step 7. Speak with a Litigation Attorney If You Discover Infringement

It’s a good idea to build a relationship with a lawyer if someone infringes upon your legal rights. They have processes and technologies that help clients discover instances of infringement. Your attorney can also act quickly when finding wrongdoings.

Get Legal Help with Trademarks

Register your trademarks with the USPTO for the greatest possible protection if you want to protect your company’s brand. Trademark lawyers can assist you in this capacity. They can also help you safeguard other IP rights, such as copyrights and patents.

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