Re-post from the blog
You’ve likely put a lot of time, energy, and money into your brand. The last thing you want is for others to leverage your hard work for their own benefit by using your company name or logo to deceive customers. Fortunately, you can help prevent your brand’s identifiers from being stolen with a registered trademark.
In this article, we’ll discuss what trademarks are and how they can help your brand. Then we’ll show you how to register a trademark for your company name and logo to keep them safe.
Let’s dive in!
Understanding Trademarks and How They Protect Your Brand
In simple terms, trademarks are legal protections that prevent others from reproducing or using identifying features of your brand – such as your company name or logo – without your permission. This even extends to the use of names or logos that could be easily confused with yours.
All brand elements are trademarked as soon as they’re in use. If you design a logo and put it on your website, it’s technically illegal for someone else to copy it. However, it’s wise to formally register your trademarks. If you don’t, it can be more difficult to take action against anyone who tries to steal your branding.
The consequences of choosing not to register a trademark for your company name or logo can be severe. Someone may imitate your brand to sell customers low-quality versions of your products. They could even scam customers by taking their money fraudulently, while never planning on delivering a product.
Any of these situations would (of course) reflect poorly on your brand. Some customers may blame your company for their poor quality items, or for the loss of their money. A registered trademark can help you prevent this from happening.
How to Register a Trademark for Your Company Name and Logo (7 Steps)
Registering a trademark in the United States can be time-consuming and expensive. Some business owners wait until their company is generating significant revenue before they register their trademarks.
This isn’t a bad idea, if you want to take this route. When you’re ready to register, the steps below will show you how to do so in the U.S. For other territories, you may need to conduct some more research.
Step 1: Consider Hiring a Trademark Attorney
It’s not required that you have an attorney in order to register a trademark, but it is highly recommended. An experienced trademark attorney will be able to advise and provide you with resources that may not be obvious at first glance.
Attorneys can actually save you a lot of time and money by improving the chances your application will be approved. Registration takes up enough time as it is – you don’t want to have to go through the process twice.
When choosing your attorney, look for someone with a history of trademark experience. It’s always a good idea to interview several potential lawyers before choosing one to work with. Once you’ve done so, you can fill them in on your situation and complete the rest of the steps with their help.
Step 2: Specify Your ‘Mark’ and Associated Products or Services
There are a few pieces of information the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will need in order to register your trademarks. The first is your mark, or the brand element you’re registering a trademark for. In this case, your marks are your company name and logo.
You’ll also need to specify what products or services you plan to apply your trademark to. Your registered trademark will only apply to the products and services you list on your application, so it’s important to make sure you accurately include them all. Consulting the Trademark ID Manual can help here.
It’s important to note that you should file separate applications for your company name and your logo. A joint application will only protect your name and logo when they’re used in conjunction, meaning it won’t prevent anyone from using your name or logo individually.
Step 3: Search for Similar Marks in the USPTO Database
Before applying to register your trademark, it’s important to ensure no one else is using the same or a similar mark. You can do this by searching the USPTO database. You’ll want to look for any marks that are similar to yours, and also those being used for similar products or services.
The decision to continue with the application process or not depends on your situation if there is a similar registered trademark. In cases where you began using the mark first, you may still be able to register it. Otherwise, you may be stuck in the unfortunate position of having to change your branding.
A trademark attorney is particularly helpful for this step. An experienced attorney will know the best way to go about searching the database, and may also be able to help you search elsewhere for unregistered similar trademarks that could cause problems down the line.
Step 4: Gather the Appropriate Files and Correct Fees
Part of the application process will involve attaching a ‘specimen’ file to demonstrate how marks such as your logo are used in your business. For example, you could use a photograph of your products’ packaging with your logo on it.
The only accepted format for a specimen is a JPEG file. Attempting to register your logo by attaching any other type of file will lead the USPTO to refuse your application. If this happens, note that you won’t be able to get a refund for your application fees (which can understandably be steep).
Speaking of application fees, you’ll have the pay the amount in full when you submit your application. If you’re filing using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), a regular application fee is $400. To register your company name and logo separately, you’ll pay the fee twice.
Step 5: Complete Your Applications
Conveniently, the USPTO offers online filing options for trademark registration. There are a few different types of registration forms, and which one you’ll need to complete depends on your situation. If you hired a lawyer, they’ll be able to help you determine which one to use.
If you’re filing on your own, make sure to pay careful attention to the information regarding which form to use. A mistake could cost hundreds of dollars, so you’ll want to make certain you’re filing the correct forms for each mark. Once you’ve have the forms, fill out all the required information and submit them, along with your fees.
Step 6: Track Your Applications’ Status
Like many legal processes, registering a trademark for your company name and logo requires a lot of waiting. After you’ve submitted your applications, you’ll need to track their progress online. It will take about five to seven days for your application to be added to the USPTO database, at which point you can start checking their status online.
Registration often takes months or even years to complete. In the meantime, you may be asked to submit additional documents or fees. If you don’t check up on your applications regularly and make sure your contact information is up to date, the USPTO could abandon your application.
Step 7: Stay On Top of Deadlines and Maintain Registration
Once you’ve successfully registered a trademark for your company’s name and logo, your work isn’t over. Maintaining registration is an ongoing process, and it’s important to be aware of the timelines and deadlines associated with your particular case.
You should always consult your attorney or the USPTO website to determine the correct information for your particular situation. However, most people need to file registration maintenance documents by the sixth year after registration, again by the tenth year after registration, and every ten years thereafter.
At the first filing you’ll need to complete a Declaration of Use or Excusable Nonuse. You’ll submit it again at the subsequent filings, along with a Request for Renewal. If you don’t, your registration will expire.
Registering a trademark for your company’s name and logo can be an expensive and time-consuming process. However, the protections a trademark offers, are not to be overlooked, and can prove worth the effort of registration by preventing damage to your brand’s image.
In this article, we discussed what trademarks are and how they protect your brand. Then we shared the steps for registering a trademark for your company name and logo. We started by suggesting you hire a trademark attorney, then explained the filing process, and how to maintain your trademark registration.