So you've got that amazing business idea and have thought up a company name—what's next? Don't let someone steal your brand away from you! Do you need a trademark? When do you need it? How do you get one? Are you protecting your brand with a federal trademark registration?
If not you should really think twice! Obtaining a central trademark registration on your business and brand name is serious business. Many people try to register their trademark alone and often fail. Below is a guide to successfully navigate the process with the Patent and Trademark Office.
Ensure your trademark is available: Before you invest in building a brand with a certain trademark, you should ensure the selected trademark does not violate the right of others. Run a trademark search to avoid: Being sued for trademark infringement and being forced to change your trademark after the business is established.
Create legal ownership rights: Obtaining a federal trademark registration gives you the presumption of national ownership. It keeps others from using the same or similar trademark to yours, which could steal customers away.
Obtaining intangible property rights: A trademark is a form of intangible property. It's useful if you want to attract investors and ever sell your business. A trademark can be bought, sold or licensed just like any other form of property. It can also increase in value over time as your brand recognition grows.
Easier enforcement of trademark rights: Litigation is very expensive. Owning the federal trademark can allow for less expensive forms of enforcement. For example, almost every major Internet company has a trademark policy. If you own a trademark, simply writing a letter is many times enough to have the infringing content removed. But only if you have a federal registration.
Did you know that Google will block ads in its system that infringe on a registered trademark and Apple will deny an App with similar names from appearing in the App Store.
The federal trademark registration process may differ from country to country but is more or less similar in most:
● Select your trademark.
● Hire a trademark attorney: Registering a trademark is a legal process with many potential trapdoors. Therefore, it is advised to hire a trademark attorney to guide you through the trademark search and application process. This will cost you money initially, but will be well worth it, saving you time and money in the long run. Attorneys are available that charge a competitive flat fee.
● Ensure your attorney completes a comprehensive federal, state and common law trademark search. Warning: Do not settle for any limited or knockout searches. Doing a search by yourself is a recipe for disaster. It is likely you are not familiar with what could create a conflict. A trademark search must be comprehensive to rule out any potential legal conflicts. Doing an adequate search is a major reason many trademark applications are rejected by the US government.
● Application: Your trademark attorney will draft and file your application with the regulating body. If approved you will receive a trademark registration certificate approximately 8 months after filing. If refused, you will receive a refusal notice generally 4 months after filing.
● Monitor and Protect: In order to keep and protect your registered trademark you must…
Renew it on the 5th anniversary then repeat on the 10th anniversary of obtaining registration, and every 10 years thereafter. Also Monitor the use of your trademark and take action to prevent others from using it. It is your responsibility to monitor and enforce your trademark right. Failure to monitor can cause the complete loss of trademark rights regardless of having federal registration.
A few dollars in hiring an attorney and doing the process right will save you from expensive litigation and name changes in the future.