This is your big idea, and now that you’ve had it, you want to make sure that no one else snatches it out from under you. Part of the process might be creating a strong brand to make your product recognizable and memorable, which might include your company and product names and logos.
But first, you should consider registering your trademarks.
Like many other parts of IP, this is often a necessary evil and a universal headache for innovators and startup founders. Here’s a quick and easy walkthrough of what the trademark process looks like.
Step 1: Is a Trademark Right for You?
First, you have to ask the essential question: is a trademark the right fit? A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or combination thereof that identifies your goods or services to your customers. It serves three purposes:
- Identifying your goods or services
- Providing legal protection for your brand
- Protecting against fraud and counterfeiting
When you register a trademark, you own the use of your word, phrase, or symbol specifically in connection with your goods or services.
What Can Be Trademarked?
Trademarks are one of four types of IP, and are typically used to protect brand names and logos.
There are three types of trademarks, each covering something different:
- Trademarks/service marks (words, phrases, or symbols defining a company’s goods or services)
- Collective marks (which allow a group to benefit from a single trademark)
- Certification marks (covering the characteristics of a product)
To be clear, a trademark is not a monopoly. Subway IP LLC owns a registered trademark on the word “SUBWAYⓇ” within the context of a restaurant service business, but if you used it with a sporting goods business, for example, they could not pursue you for trademark infringement.
You cannot trademark:
- Proper names or likenesses without the person’s consent
- The likeness of a current or former U.S. president
- Government symbols or insignia
- Generic terms and phrases
- Vulgar or disparaging words or phrases
- Deceptive, immoral, or scandalous words or phrases
- Sounds or short motifs (those fall under copyright)
Also, it’s important to note that you can use a “™” mark on a word or phrase as soon as you start using it, but if you want nationwide legal protection, you have to formally register the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Only after the USPTO accepts your trademark registration application, can you legally start using the “Ⓡ” symbol.
Step 2: Preparing Your Application
Is your idea eligible for a trademark according to Step 1? If so, you’re ready to start preparing your application.
First, you have to select your mark and mark format, which can be trickier than you think. This USPTO video clarifies how to successfully select a mark.
Then, you have to select your mark format to essentially create a drawing of your mark to submit as part of your trademark application. Work with a trademark professional and a professional artist to do this, as this submission will become part of the legal record if your trademark is approved.
You also have to know what your basis for filing is. This is the basis in the Trademark Act upon which you filed your application. There are four bases to choose from:
- Use in commerce basis (you’re currently using your mark in commerce)
- Intent-to-use basis (you intend to use your mark in commerce)
- Foreign registration basis (you own a foreign registration of the same mark from your country of origin)
- Foreign application basis (you own an earlier-filed foreign application filed within six months of your U.S. application)
As part of this process, you should search for similar marks to make sure no one else has registered a similar mark. As previously noted, registering a trademark does not give you a monopoly. If someone has already registered the same trademark or a significantly similar trademark within the same industry, your trademark registration application will be denied.
Step 3: Prepare and File Your Application
After that, you’re ready to prepare and file your application. In the most basic terms, you have to set up a USPTO account and apply online, including paying the registration fee. However, if you want your application to succeed, you need to approach this strategically, which means hiring the right professionals to set your application up for success.
We Take the Headache Out of Registering a Trademark
For many inventors, IP is just one more thing on a long list of items to worry about. But it’s also what gets your big idea off the ground. We can help you navigate the process, including advising on patents and trademarks. That way, you have a clear strategy to protect your business’s best assets. We’re patent experts who bring together diverse expertise to make your patent process easier. Let’s get your business off on the right foot. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.