There are many small business owners that want to register a trademark to ensure that no one else can profit on their name or logo. However, many small business owners do not know where to begin the trademark registration process. The following are 5 steps that any business owner can follow to register a trademark.
1. Understand the process
The first step to registering your trademark is to understand what it means to "register a trademark." To register your trademark you must file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov), often called the USPTO. This is the U.S. government office that is responsible for issuing federal trademarks. A trademark is only a registered trademark once it has been approved by the USPTO.
2. Conduct a trademark search
Before you file your trademark application with the USPTO, you should conduct a trademark search in order to make sure that no one else has filed the same or similar trademark. You can conduct a trademark search yourself by going to USPTO. When you get to the homepage, select "Trademarks" from the menu on the left hand side and then select "Search TM database." Even though you can conduct a trademark search yourself, I highly recommend that you hire a trademark attorney to do the search for you. The USPTO database can be extremely tricky to search if you are not an experienced searcher. Even if you type your desired trademark into the database and no "hits" come up, this does not mean your trademark is "free" to use.
3. Complete and file a trademark application
Once you have established that no one has filed a trademark that is the same or similar to yours, you can complete an application for your trademark online at the USPTO. When you get to the homepage, select "Trademarks" from the menu on the left hand side and then select "File Online Forms." On the next page, select "File New Application." You may then follow the step-by-step instructions provided on the electronic application. Once again, even though you can complete the online trademark application yourself (and it appears relatively straightforward) there are many technical and legal requirements hidden in the application. I strongly suggest hiring an experienced trademark attorney to assist you with drafting the application. The non-refundable filing fee for the trademark application will be either $275 or $325. If you incorrectly complete the application, your trademark could be denied registration. In this case, you will have lost the non-refundable filing fee and lost any priority on your trademark.
4. Monitor your application
Just because you file your application does not mean you "have" the trademark. The trademark application must be reviewed and approved by a U.S. government attorney. If the trademark examining attorney has any questions or requires any clarifications on your trademark application, the attorney will issue an "Office Action" on your trademark application. Once an Office Action is issued, you will have six months from the date of issuance to respond. If you do not respond, your application will be considered abandoned and you will have lost your filing fee and any priority established on the trademark. Therefore, it is extremely important to visit the USPTO website every two months after you file your trademark application to ensure that you do not need to respond to any Office Actions.
5. Final Registration
Approximately 8-12 months after you initially file your trademark application, and if the U.S. Government approves your trademark application, you will receive a trademark registration certificate in the mail from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This trademark registration certificate will include instructions on the requirements to keep your trademark registration active.
As you can see, the U.S. trademark registration process can be accomplished by anyone, but it takes an experienced attorney to ensure your search and application are completed correctly.
Josh Gerben is author of this article on trademark registration. Find more information about trademark application here.
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