Starting a business is an exciting proposition, but it is also a tremendous amount of work. In the run-up to opening, there are steps that must be taken to ensure you’ll meet the needs of your customers and remain in compliance with all applicable regulations, but you also need to protect your own interests. One of the most important of these is establishing a trademark.
You may not think you need to trademark your company name, slogan, or logo, but doing so has many advantages. It will give you legal ownership of your mark – whether for a good or service – and that protection extends nationally. If you register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), your mark will be listed in a searchable online database, and if you register federally it will keep foreign companies from importing products using your name.
Registering for a trademark is a relatively simple process, but it does require some time and effort. You start by doing some research to ensure that your name has not already been taken and protected by somebody else. This is done by searching the federal database using the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System. It’s a good idea to search for both your exact name and those that may be so similar that your request for the name will be denied. Adding punctuation or making a word into a plural will generally not provide you with enough of a differentiator if another company has already trademarked the name.
If the name that you want to trademark proves to be unique and available, your next step is to fill out an application that includes essential identifying information, a description and rendition of the mark, and an explanation of the goods or services that it represents. This application will then be filed through either of two entities depending upon the level of protection that you need and the amount that you are willing to pay for your trademark. It’s important to note that if you use (or plan to use) your trademark on a variety of different products or services, you will need to file an application under each of the categories that apply. Each application will incur its own separate charge. Approval follows confirmation of receipt and the assignment of an identifying serial number that you can use to check the status of your application.
The process of researching existing trademarks and preparing and submitting a trademark application can be time-consuming. For assistance with the process, contact us today to learn how we can assist your small business with this and other essential steps.