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Trademark 101: Understanding the Trademark Process

A trademark is a symbol, work, or phrase represents a brand or product and it must be registered with the government. If you have a catch phrase or logo that you want to have exclusive rights to, you first must understand the trademark process.

Do you know how to legally protect your best ideas and lay the groundwork for future profitability?

A trademark is vitally important in helping you protect your intellectual property. But it’s easy to confuse a trademark with things like copyrights, and it’s difficult for most people to understand the laws and procedures of the trademark process.

Don’t worry, though; we’ve put together a comprehensive guide with all of the info you need to know!

What Is a Trademark?

First off, it’s important to understand what a trademark actually is. Many people confuse trademarks with patents and copyrights.

Generally speaking, copyright protects physical works you create, such as books and videos. Patents are intended to protect new inventions. And both patents and copyrights expire after a certain number of years.

Trademarks protect intellectual property like company names and logos. If the trademark is regularly used, then it will never actually expire.

Choosing a Mark

Now that you know what can be trademarked, you must select the mark itself. There are definite rules that guide this process.

The mark must be a standard character, a sound mark, or some kind of stylized design. And each trademark protects particular goods or services, so you must be clear in the application about what you are trademarking.

Next, search the USPTO database to see if any similar trademarks are protecting similar services. You must also be able to demonstrate you have a commercial basis on which to file the trademark.

This process is complicated, so don’t be afraid to seek out a trademark attorney.

To Register or Not to Register

You must next decide whether to register the trademark. This is an optional step, though it brings several unique advantages for you.

Registration alerts the public to your trademark, which may avoid legal entanglements later on. It also provides you with the exclusive right to use the trademark in conjunction with the goods or services you list.

Submitting the Application

The next to last step is to prepare and file the trademark application. This is the most critical part of the trademark process.

You must complete an online application and pay the filing fee. This fee is non-refundable and ranges from $225 to $400.

Keep in mind that your application enters the public record after you submit it. This means that afterward, anyone will be able to look up any names, contact information, and other details listed in the application.

Afterward, you should regularly monitor the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval System. It keeps you updated on the application status as well as anything else you need to do.

Working With the Examining Attorney

So long as you meet minimum filing requirements, your application is forwarded to an examining attorney. They ultimately determine whether you can trademark something or not.

The attorney will contact you if you need to update or correct anything. Hopefully, the mark will be successfully published. If not, the attorney must provide any reasons for refusal to you in writing.

Trademark Process: The Bottom Line

You know now how important the trademark process is. But do you know what to do next?

Here at Small Business Brief, we are all about helping big ideas grow into a big business. To see how we can transform your business dreams into successful realities, be sure to check out our entrepreneurship articles today!