For entrepreneurs, the work never stops. From focusing on product development to creating a marketing strategy and building out a website, you’ve likely spent much of your time and money preparing to launch your startup.
However, with that long list of to-do’s, you may not have considered how to protect your hard work. Whether you are just in the beginning stages of planning or your grand opening is circled on the calendar, the best way to protect your new brand is through trademark registration.
Benefits of Trademark Registration
The most consequential benefit of trademark registration is the protection it provides your business as you work to grow your brand. When your trademark is registered, you can invest in signage, product labeling, and marketing materials and be protected from others infringing on your mark, either knowingly or unknowingly. Best of all, with a federally registered trademark, these protections will follow you anywhere in the country, so you can expand your business without hesitation.
A trademark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, is also the precursor to obtaining international protections. In today’s global market, it’s likely that you may begin to do business outside the United States, whether through sales, manufacturing, or distribution, but your federally registered trademark will not protect you in disputes that occur within those countries. Once you’ve begun the process to protect your mark in the U.S., you can take the next step in registering your mark internationally, either by applying with each foreign country’s trademark office directly, or by utilizing the Madrid Protocol. The Madrid Protocol is an international treaty that allows applicants to submit a single application in their home language that can then be forwarded to over 90 member countries.
If your new venture plans to offer goods or services online, either through your website or an online retail site like Amazon, a registered trademark will provide critical benefits. First, you’ll be protected from cybersquatting, which occurs when an individual or group purchases a domain name in bad faith, with the intent to sell counterfeit goods or ransom the domain name back to the original owner at a higher price. You’ll also be able to have more control over your brand on sales platforms like Amazon and Alibaba, and you will be within your rights to take action against counterfeiters selling goods under your mark there.
Owning a strong trademark will also help to establish your brand. As you expand your offerings, loyal customers will recognize your trademark and know to expect the same quality products or services they’ve grown accustomed to. In addition, you’ll be able to use the ® symbol, which signifies your mark has been registered with the USPTO, providing an additional layer of validity to consumers just learning about your brand.
How to Register a Trademark
Many new entrepreneurs think they must wait until the business is established before they can register their trademarks, but that isn’t the case. In fact, beginning the process to register a trademark should be one of the initial steps you take when starting a new business. Doing this will ensure the business and product names, logos, or slogans you choose are, in fact, available for use without the concern for infringing on other businesses.
The first step in trademark registration is to come up with a short list of several name options. Then, work with a trademark attorney to conduct a comprehensive trademark search. The search will find any existing trademarks that may be confusingly similar. If a similar mark is found, move on to the next option on your list and conduct another search.
After you’ve decided on a trademark, your attorney will draft your trademark application. The drafted process includes deciding which “classes” to file your trademark under, and, how to describe your goods and/or services in the application itself. There are 45 different classes of goods and services to choose from, and it is essential to select the classes that represent the goods or services you currently offer or plan to offer in the near future.
If you are not yet offering a good or service, you can file your trademark application based on an
“intent to use” your trademark in the marketplace soon. Then, after your trademark application is approved by the USPTO, you will need to submit a “Statement of Use” to the USPTO, demonstrating that you have begun using the trademark “in commerce” before your registration can issue.
Once your trademark is registered, your trademark protections will never expire, as long as you continue to use the mark as it appears in your trademark application and you meet renewal requirements. As a new trademark owner, your first renewal will occur between the fifth and sixth year, and then again between the ninth and tenth year. After that, you will need to renew your trademark with the USPTO every ten years. Failing to renew your mark could result in its cancellation.
Protect Your Startup with Trademark Registration
As you make a list of tasks to get your new venture up and running, don’t forget to include trademark registration. Conduct a comprehensive trademark search as soon as possible to determine the availability of the mark you plan to use. Then file your trademark application with the USPTO. The date you file your application will become your priority date, and no one will be able to file a confusingly similar mark after this date. Locking in valuable trademark protections will allow you to expand to anywhere across the country, and it will also give you the ability to apply for international protections. You’ll be able to establish your brand with an added layer of professional validity and maintain control of your business’s online presence as well. Begin the process to register your trademark today, so your startup will be protected now and well into the future.
Founder of Gerben Perrott PLLC, A USA based trademark law firm, Josh Gerben is a trademark lawyer whose trademark registration process has facilitated securing over 4,000 trademarks for clients since 2008. Gerben Law has been featured in a wide variety of national news outlets; The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, MarketWatch and more.
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