If you are in the process of starting a new business, you may be wondering how to trademark a name and logo for your business. Lucky for you, it’s a pretty simple process, and we’ll go over the steps you need to do it in this article.
What is a trademark?
Trademarks give you exclusive rights to use specific words, phrases, symbols, or designs to identify your business. To trademark a name, you must use it for commerce or intend to do so soon. The name must also be distinctive and not generic to receive trademark protection.
Trademark applications are commonly denied because there is a “likelihood of confusion” when the trademark is not distinctive enough and is too similar to another mark. Your trademark application must specify the types of goods and services you’ll be using the trademark to sell.
Do I Need a Trademark or Copyright?
Trademarks and copyrights are often confused, but they aren’t the same.
- Copyright: A copyright is associated with creative works such as film, writing, audio, or computer programming. Material that is eligible for copyright must be fixed in a tangible medium. This means that others must be able to see it, it cannot be just an idea.
- Trademark: A trademark is for symbols, words, phrases, or a combination of those. A trademark is used to protect one of these elements that represent a company or a brand and is used on signs, documents, and other materials for sale.
It is possible that a logo is actually eligible for both a trademark and copyright. Many logos contain original artwork and are therefore eligible for copyright. A trademark protects the entire logo and brand name from being used by other companies.
Identifying your trademark
Another important consideration when preparing to file your trademark application is the depiction of your trademark. Every application must include a clear representation of the mark that you are seeking to register. The representation will be used to file the mark in the USPTO search records and to print in the Official Gazette as well as on your trademark’s registration certificate.
How to trademark your business name
Research Your Name & Logo Design
The first step you will need to take when setting out to trademark your business name is to do a trademark search. It will help you find any potential trademark issues before spending time and money filing a trademark application. You should search the USPTO database to find any trademarks or pending trademarks that match your business name.
These search results will alert you to any possibilities that your trademark application will be denied based on the likelihood that it will be confused with another existing trademark. You should then conduct a more comprehensive search to search state trademark databases, business directories, and the internet to find any business names that are the same or similar to the name you want to get trademarked. This process may seem lengthy, but it is well worth it to avoid resubmitting your trademark application if the first one gets denied.
Prior to submitting your trademark application, ensure your name or logo is the final version. Once you submit the application, you can’t make changes to either. Minor alterations may be accepted, but you’ll need proper documentation, additional fees, and USPTO acceptance.
You will likely need to submit an entirely new application if the logo or name changes after submitting your trademark application.
File Your Application
Now that you have searched your business name to ensure it’s not too similar to another business, it’s time to file your trademark application. You will file the application with the USPTO online using the Trademark Electronic Application System.
Your application must have the name and address of the trademark’s owner, the name you are seeking to protect, the goods or services that you are looking to register your name for, the basis of your filing: either use in commerce or intent to use, if your filing is based on use in commerce, you will need to provide a label or packaging showing your name in use, if you file on an intent basis, you will be required to provide this later on.
Your trademark application must include a filing fee of $225-$325. However, you’ll also likely need to work with a lawyer, which will have its own associated costs.
Once your trademark application makes it to the USPTO, it will be assigned an examining attorney to review the application.
Issues or Opposition
If any issues are found with your application, you will receive an Office Action letter. This letter will detail what the problem is, and it will give you a certain amount of time to respond. You must respond before the deadline, or your application will immediately be denied.
Next, the notice of your application will be published online in the Official Gazette so that other people and brands have the chance to oppose it. If somebody does oppose it, you will probably need to seek legal counsel to resolve the issue.
When the opposition has been resolved, the office will register your trademark if you applied based on use in commerce. If you filed on an intent to use, you would receive a Notice of Allowance. Your mark has been approved, but it will not be formally registered until you start using it, file a Statement of Use, and send in your sample packaging or label.
Using Your Trademark
Once the registration is complete, you can start using the registered trademark symbol ® next to your brand’s name. Once you are a trademarked business, the responsibility to enforce your trademark rights is completely on you, so you must monitor your trademark and act quickly if you think your trademark is being infringed.
A Note About Logo Colors
For logos, you’ll need to decide whether you want to submit your trademark for a color or a black-and-white logo. Many businesses do choose to register a colored logo. However, it’s not always the right idea.
You cannot change the color of your trademarked logo without applying for a new trademark or amending your original application, as the presented color is important to the trademark.
How Long Does It Take to Trademark a Logo or Business Name?
On average, trademarking a name or logo can take several months to longer than a year, from processing to final approval. Complications, such as re-examination or amendments, can make it take significantly longer.
Two Different Registrations
You might not know this right off the bat, but a company logo and name are not the same, even if a stylized company name is the logo. For trademark purposes, you’ll register your business name and logo separately.
A company name is a standard character mark that protects the name itself and doesn’t include the font, design, or coloring used. This trademark prevents another business from using your company name.
A logo trademark protects the logo in its entirety, including the shape, orientation, design, font, words, and occasionally the colors. It prevents others from using your logo or something similar enough to it that might cause confusion.
Registering both is a good idea, as you can see, because you’ll get protection for your name and logo. If you do need to register these separately at different times, start with your business name.
Pros of trademarking your business name
If you use your business’ trademark but don’t register it with the USPTO, you’ll have common law trademark protection, so you might be able to stop people from using it. However, only in your immediate geographic area.
If you register your trademark, you’ll have several advantages, including
- Nationwide trademark protection.
- Your trademark becomes part of the USPTO’s database, which creates a public record of your ownership and the date you started using your trademark.
- Anyone conducting a trademark search will see yours and be less likely to use it or something similar.
- You can file a lawsuit in federal court to enforce your trademark.
- You may be able to register your trademark in other countries.
- Registering your trademark gives you the right to use the trademark symbol ®.
Now that you have read the guidelines and steps to trademark your business name, we hope you feel confident and ready to begin the exciting process of having a registered trademark business ®.
Remember, the more distinctive your trademark name is, the easier it is to trademark, and the more likely your trademark application will be approved the first time without any issues.
Registering your trademark is an especially important component of your business if your business operates in more than one state and you are concerned that your competitors may be trying to use your name.