An important part of starting a new business is establishing your brand identity. This often involves creating a trademark to identify your goods and services and protect you from infringement by other companies.
A trademark often consists of a brand name and/or logo. If you wish, you may register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This is not strictly necessary, but it does afford your trademark extra protection.
The process of registering a trademark involves submitting an application and paying a processing fee. You should know that the fee is nonrefundable regardless of the outcome, and acceptance of your application is not guaranteed.
You can submit your application online via the Trademark Electronic Application System. Before you do so, however, you should complete the following steps.
1. Search the database
Your trademark must be unique to your business. Before you apply, you should check to see if there are any other trademarks in use similar enough to yours to cause confusion in the consumer’s mind. The USPTO database is a valuable resource for searching trademarks.
Keep in mind, however, that the government does not require trademark registration. Therefore, the database does not contain every trademark currently in use.
2. Select your mark
As you choose a trademark for your business, there are two important things you need to keep in mind. First, the USPTO is not involved in enforcing trademark protection. That responsibility belongs to you. Second, business owners cannot register every trademark with the USPTO. You will have to make that determination before submitting your application.
3. Identify your mark format
Examples of mark format include the following:
- Sound mark
- Stylized/design mark
- Standard character mark
You can choose any of these for your company’s trademark, but you must identify it as such on your application.
4. Name your goods and services
It is not enough to simply submit the mark itself. You must also clearly identify the precise goods and services to which the mark will apply.
If you live in the United States, the law does not require you to hire a trademark attorney. However, it may be beneficial in creating a unique, registrable trademark and going through the application process.