If you want to make sure that no one else can legally use your business's logo, brand name, or tagline, you can get it registered as a trademark. Trademark registrations need to be completed with the USPTO, but it's more than just filling out a form requesting that the trademark be granted. Here are the basics you need to know.

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Research Current Trademarks

Registering a trademark is important because it ensures that no one else uses a trademark that's too similar to yours. The catch is that you can't register a logo, brand name, or anything else if it's too similar to another registered trademark. Fortunately, the USPTO database, also known as the Trademark Electronic Search System or TESS, provides you with a database to search. Don’t forget to search under both text and designs or marks. Also remember to search using similar terms and synonyms.

The research can be the most time consuming part of trademark registration. It helps if you keep a list of all the search terms you use so that you don't miss key terms, and also helps you avoid accidentally repeating your work. You could hire a lawyer to do this for you, but a lawyer will use the same tools you can use here. Essentially, you are paying for the lawyer's time and his evaluation of the competing trademarks.

Fill Out the Trademark Application Form

For the fastest registration, you should fill out the online application with the Trademark Electronic Application System. You'll have to pay between $250 and $350. Fill out the registration in its entirety. It takes about 90 minutes for most businesses. To simplify the process, have the following information on hand:

  • Name, logo, or design you want to trademark
  • Business name
  • Your name
  • Information on the first time that this name, logo, or design was used and information on how it has been used since then

You can fill this information out and mail it in, but the USPTO generally responds faster when you apply online. It will take approximately six months for you to find out whether your trademark has been registered. Do not claim that it has been registered (or use the ® symbol) until after you receive notice that your trademark has been officially registered.

Protecting Your Trademark Rights While You’re Waiting for Registration

Remember that if someone is using your trademark without permission, you can still enforce your ownership rights. A basic Cease and Desist Letter asserts your right. You can't claim that it is a registered trademark, but you can claim that it is yours. Copyright laws will protect logos as well.

Registering a trademark is not difficult. You have to research what you want to trademark to make sure that it is sufficiently unique. After that, you move on to the trademark application form. Once that's completed, you should receive the response in approximately six months, although the USPTO makes no guarantees on that time frame.

Get started Need a Trademark? We can help. Just answer a few simple questions.

Get started Need a Trademark? We can help. Just answer a few simple questions.