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What is a Trademark & How Do You Register One
A trademark is a registered symbol, emblem, image, name, logo, motto, slogan, badge, or crest among a host of other things that can only be used by the registering party. Different countries have their registration bodies, but since 2014, persons can register international trademarks enforceable in 92 countries.
Why trademarks are important
The first obvious but crucial role of trademarks is to differentiate companies and their products. Without registered brands, conniving competitors would easily tap into the reputation of established enterprises to do business under deceitful disguises.
Additionally, if you develop a trademark without registering it and go on to build a local reputation, another company can easily use your branding to do business abroad. With a registered trademark, doing business under your company’s distinct identifying features becomes your exclusive preserve.
How to register a trademark
Step 1: Develop the trademark
The first step is, of course, developing the trademark. There is no limit to how many trademarks you can obtain, and you should, therefore, not feel constrained during development.
That said, the most critical thing to internalize is that your trademarks should not infringe on others that are already registered – strive for complete uniqueness. After all, a common trademark will only amount to wasted efforts since potential customers will find it hard to distinguish your goods from competing products.
It is imperative not to limit yourself to images and text. Sounds and scents can also be registered as valid trademarks. In fact, though hard to pull off, colors can also gain trademarks. As you develop your mark, borrow from world famous brands such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Amazon, etc.
Step 2: Determine your goods and services
Next, identify the particular goods and services on which you will utilize the developed trademark. Think ahead on what you seek to achieve and consult your business plan to cover all potential bases. Keep in mind that the nature of your mark will greatly determine to what extent it is enforceable.
Step 3: Hire a lawyer
If you think you have what it takes, you can opt to tread the trademark obtaining path solo. However, getting an attorney is highly advised. Otherwise, you will spend more resources than necessary mitigating challenges that can be easily overcome with quality guidance. The good news is that trademark attorneys are not that expensive – but again, it all depends on the one you go for.
Step 4: Search the USPTO database
To confirm that your chosen marks are not already in use, conduct an in-depth search in the USPTO database using the provided Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)
Before commencing, take advantage of the given resources to understand how the search works, the kind of results you will get and how to interpret them. For instance, if your developed symbol has design aspects, you will have to use a design code to actualize the search.
Step 5: alter your trademarks accordingly
If at all you discover aspects of your mark that are in conflict with other registered marks, adjust your symbols accordingly. If you have not been utilizing the services of a professional designer thus far, it may be wise to hire one at this point – especially so if you do not have the inclination for art. Otherwise, you could end up wasting a lot of time in a creation loop; recurrently developing existing marks.
Step 6: Prepare your application
Using the TESS system, formulate your request. Follow all the given prompts to devise an application with high success chances.
Step 7: Submit the trademark petition
Review the application at every stage to ensure that it is accurate and that it represents your wishes to the letter while adhering to the given rules. Once satisfied, submit the application.
Step 8: Pay the fee
To facilitate the filing process, you will have to pay fees ranging from $225-$400. There may be additional fees during the process that generally range between $50-$200. There are several alternatives to make payments such as credit cards, wire transfers, USPTO deposit accounts and money orders. All payable fees are non-refundable.
Step 9: Monitor the progress
Advisably, monitor your trademark application every 3 or so months to stay updated regarding all developments. If you shift location or change contact information, be sure to update the same.
Step 10: Liaise with the chosen USPTO attorney
Once the USPTO ascertains that your application meets all the set prerequisites, the petition will be entrusted to a lawyer for further scrutiny. If it passes the vetting, the USPTO will publish the mark.
In case of any issues, the lawyer will communicate with you via the given channel of communication so that you can make minor corrections. If massively deficient, the attorney will write a letter detailing the premises for denial and the USPTO will reject your application.
In conclusion, with a lawyer to offer guidance, filing for a trademark is relatively straightforward. In fact, most of the work lies in developing worthy marks that will adequately service your needs. If your trademark application goes through, keep in mind that there are applicable maintenance fees to be paid at specified intervals.