Having a unique, catchy business name is a great way to advertise your enterprise but it may not be enough, especially in a competitive market. You should consider protecting it to prevent other businesses and individuals from using it for their own gains. This is where a trademark comes in.
A trademark is a phrase, design, or name that legally represents and distinguishes a brand or a source of goods from the competition in commerce. Not only do trademarks safeguard your brand from counterfeit and fraudulent activities, but it also guarantees that your products meet certain quality standards. Some examples of trademarks include Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ slogan, Google’s colorful logo, and McDonald’s double golden arches.
In this article, you’ll learn how to trademark your startup’s name in five simple steps. In case you find the process overwhelming, especially if this is your time doing it, consider visiting Trademark Engine or other trademark registration services. They can guide you through the process for a more efficient and seamless application.
- Determine If There’s A Need For A Trademark
Before you apply for a trademark, it’s important to verify if you really need one. This is because trademark protection (common law protection) can be automatically granted to a business, provided it’s the first to use that mark in commerce.
However, the scope of common law protection is limited to where the business resides. Therefore, it may not be possible to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against someone from other locations outside the jurisdiction of your locality.
Registering a trademark grants you exclusive rights to your mark, allowing you to use it as long as you want. Also, it allows you to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against businesses and individuals who use or steal your mark for their own gains.
- Choose A Trademark
If you’re having difficulties in choosing a trademark name, here are some tips to help you get started.
- Keep your mark short.
- Make your mark memorable and unique.
- Don’t use generic names.
You may also want to consider the different types of brand names to expand your options. The three fundamental types are as follows.
- Descriptive Names: These names give premium to functionality, removing any form of ambiguity. It clearly positions the brand, which is beneficial in advertising. Some examples are Pizza Hut, Air Asia, Tata Motors, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and American Airlines.
- Suggestive Names: These names indirectly indicate the product or service through association, metaphors, or analogies. Some examples are Twitter and Buffer.
- Empty Vessels: These names are arbitrary and do not have any connection to the product or services offered by the business. Some examples are Apple, Kodak, McDonald’s, Hershey’s, and Starbucks.
Understanding the categories of brand names gives you more opportunities for creative branding. Whichever you choose, ensure that you are comfortable with the name that you plan to trademark as changing it in the future may be complicated and taxing.
- Search For Existing Trademarks
Once you’ve decided to register for a trademark, the next thing to do is to search for your startup’s name on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark records. This can be done using USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).
Searching for existing trademarks using TESS is free of charge. All you need to do is open USPTO’s website and follow the indicated steps.
When you look for similar trademarks, start your search using your exact mark. Type the exact name of your business in the search bar and click enter. If there’s any, you have no choice but to change your mark until none matches.
If there’s no exact match, start searching for other variations. For example, ‘Blue Berry Cheesecake House’ and ‘Blue Berry Cheesecake Factory’ may result in the rejection of your application because they sound similar even though they don’t look the same.
Remember that this is a vital step that must be accomplished before filing an application because USPTO does not process business names that are significantly similar to registered trademarks. If duplications arise, they usually send an office action that states the nature of the problem that prevents the trademark registration process from proceeding. Remember that you must address it within six months, starting from the date indicated in the letter. Failure to respond may result in the rejection of your proposal.
- Prepare The Application
Once you’re done with the trademark search, prepare for the application process. This may take time and effort to ensure that everything’s accounted for. You must submit important information, such as the business name, and the covered products and services.
- Business Name: This is the name you want to protect. You can also add a particular style and color to make it a ‘special form mark.’ However, doing so will only protect that particularly-designed trademark and not the name itself.
- Covered Products And Services: You have to describe all the products and services that your business name will cover as well as the class they’ll fall into. You’ll be allowed to apply for more than one mark depending on what your business offers, but you’ll need to pay additional fees.
You may visit USPTO’s Trademark ID Manual to identify the class of your offerings. If there’s a product description that exactly describes your products, make sure to copy that verbatim. Otherwise, you’ll need to describe your products using your own words.
Application fees will depend on the number of classes you apply for. Also, keep in mind that applications must be signed and dated prior to filing.
- File The Application
When filing a trademark application, you can choose between two options using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS): TEAS Standard and TEAS Plus. So, what’s the difference between the two?
TEAS Plus is more affordable compared to TEAS Standard; however, not all can be eligible for it. To use it, you’ll need a standard description of your offerings from the USTPO’s Trademark ID Manual. If you have your own description, you’ll need to use the standard option.
Once you’ve filed your application, you’ll be given a receipt with a filing number. Then, your application will be reviewed thoroughly by the patent attorney. If there are issues involved, you’ll receive an office action.
If your trademark is approved, USPTO will publish it online to allow others to oppose your application’s approval. If nobody opposes, the office will register your trademark. Otherwise, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to defend your trademark.
A trademark grants you absolute ownership and exclusive rights over your business name and other elements. Trademark registration can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you know the process. Luckily, the steps above practically summarize the basics of the registration protocol. If you want to guarantee the protection of your enterprise from counterfeiting and infringement, trademark your start-up’s name today!
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