According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark is used to distinguish the origin of a product from another source. This differentiation can be identified by a particular design, symbol, phrase, or word.
In other words, a trademark is a brand name used to identify your goods or services.
Why You Should Consider a Trademark
Although you don't have to trademark your brand name, it may prove to be a wise tool, as a registered trademark grants you exclusive rights to use your mark with any goods or services offered by your company. By getting a trademark, you enjoy legal protection nationally, which allows you to claim ownership and prevent other companies from using the same mark.
Steps on How to Apply for a Trademark
Applying for a trademark is a fairly uncomplicated process, and can be completed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website (www.uspto.gov).
Learning how to trademark your endeavors is as simple as following these guidelines:
1. Research the USPTO's database before filing for your trademark to discover if someone else has already claimed the mark. The online search system, called the Trademark Electronic Search, or TESS, enables you to search for both the mark and the design element, if applicable.
You may also search the USPTO's database by visiting the Trademark Public Search Library in Alexandria, VA, or visiting a Patent and Trademark Depository Library in your area. The depository libraries are stocked with CD-ROMSs of the library's database.
2. If your search finds a similar mark, you will want to check its status using the Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval, or TARR, which is available on the PTO's website.
3. If your search has not yielded any active trademarks, you can begin to draft a description of the goods and services that are being used or will be used with your mark using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), available on the PTO's website. Your trademark application must be specific, as it needs to show how your mark is being used or how you will use your mark in the future.
4. Pay for your trademark application through the TEAS with a credit card or an electronic funds transfer. After the US PTO has determined that you have met the minimum filing requirements for your mark, and you have paid the related fees, you will be sent an email confirmation, with a serial number.
5. Monitor the progress of your trademark application through the TARR database. Use your assigned serial number for all searches and correspondence related to your trademark application.
6. Expect a response in about five to six months from the PTO. It is not, however, uncommon to wait more than a year sometimes where legal issues may be present.
7. Pay your notice of allowance and later submit either a statement of use or an extension request. Your statement of use is a sworn statement and proof that you have used the trademark in commerce for goods and/or services. Once you trademark your name, you can protect your company and efforts from misuse.