Your brand is your business's identity, so it's important to secure it. To be sure no one improperly uses your business's name or branding, you need to obtain a trademark. To do so, you'll need to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Filing an application does not automatically mean your trademark will be approved. There are rules to follow and a required application fee, but at the end of the process you will hold the exclusive rights to the name and branding of your business or product. The information below should help to guide you and your business through the trademark process.
Brands can be trademarked for either current or future commercial use. If you plan on selling products under the trademarked brand, the name must be displayed on the product's packaging. If your brand offers services, the trademark must be displayed on marketing and advertising materials. If you have already started using the name or mark in a commercial setting, you will have to specify the data when you first began using it. If you plan on using the name or mark in the future, you must note this on the application.
It's important to understand whether your brand is eligible for a trademark before filing. The trademark and patent process is time-consuming and costs money, so you don't want to waste effort trying to trademark an ineligible idea. Be sure to read the rules and understand whether your application is valid.
Conducting a trademark search
It's no use trying to trademark a brand or phrase that has already been trademarked by someone else. Luckily, the USPTO maintains a database of trademarked terms called the Trademark Electronic Search System. If you intend to register a trademark that uses a design instead of just a simple name, you must search using a design code, which you can find in the Design Search Code Manual.
Registering your trademark
Now comes the fun part. Use the Trademark Electronic Application System to apply for your trademark license. The application is simple to fill out online, but be sure your information is accurate and complete, or else you could be wasting the filing fee. Application fees range from $225 to $400, so you don't want to be rejected on a technicality. You can pay this fee online by credit card, electronic funds transfer or an existing USPTO deposit account. Once submitted, your form will go directly to the USPTO.
Companies that participate in international business
If your company does any business internationally, you should know that your registered trademarks are generally only valid in the United States. Once you have applied for a trademark in the United States, however, you may be eligible to apply for an international trademark under the Madrid Protocol. To do this, you must file an application with the international bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization. The USPTO will assist you in filing your international application. Your international application will pass through the USPTO before it is forwarded to the WIPO.