What to know about registering a trademark

Coming up with a trademark for your company may seem like the biggest hurdle in trademark registration. While picking a unique mark that identifies your brand clearly is not easy, but it is just one step in the trademark process.

After selecting a mark, you must apply for trademark protection, get approved and protect your trademark. Here is what you need to know about registering a trademark.

Research your trademark

Before you apply for trademark registration, complete your due diligence on your trademark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not approve your application if there is another registered trademark likely to be confused with yours. You can search their Trademark Electronic Search System online, or you could hire a professional to search for similar marks. Businesses can also register trademarks with their state governments, so a thorough search will include state-registered trademarks.

File a trademark application

You can file a trademark application through the USPTO’s website. It will cost between $225 and $400 to file an application. Your trademark application must include the owner of the trademark, contact information, a drawing of the mark, the goods and/or services offered, what the mark is used for and the filing fee.

Respond to any correspondence

The USPTO recommends you check the status of an application every three to four months. About three months after you submit, an examining attorney is assigned to review your application. The attorney may send you letters known as Office actions, which could include questions or concerns about a trademark. You must respond to these letters within the time specified, or your application is considered abandoned. Office actions can also include reasons your application is being rejected.

Protect your trademark

Your job is not over after a trademark application is approved. The USPTO is not responsible for stopping trademark infringement. That is up to you and your company. One way to protect your trademark is to watch trademark filings and oppose any trademark applications that seem too like yours. If you encounter another business using a similar mark, you should be proactive about getting them to stop using it. The longer you wait, the more harm this competitor could do to your business. You could ask an intellectual property attorney to write a cease and desist letter. If that does not work, you may consider filing a trademark infringement lawsuit.

Maintain your trademark protection

To keep ownership of your trademark, you must file maintenance documents with the USPTO. The first maintenance documents are due between the fifth and sixth year after you register your mark. Your initial registration documents contain information about maintaining your trademark. You also must renew your trademark every 10 years.

Creating a trademark is the first step in the process of trademark registration. After your trademark is approved, you must also protect it from infringement and renew your protection through the USPTO.

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