Early on in the lifecycle of any Limited Liability Company, one key consideration is protecting yourself and your business from anyone who might attempt to imitate or otherwise steal your ideas, your products and your name. Naturally, this ultimately involves paying a visit to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Of course you want to register your business name, but the how of it all bears a great impact on your company’s future. In fact, how you handle any trademark applications regarding your business can play a role in what comes next. So today we’re talking about intent-to-use applications. Not sure what that is? Then read on.
What Is an Intent-to-Use Application?
Before we get any further, let’s take a moment to clarify exactly what an intent-to-use application is. For the most part, applicants can qualify as the first user of a trademark under one of two conditions.
To “own” a trademark, you can be the first to use the trademark for a particular product on the market or for a service currently available to consumers. This is often the more common of the two conditions.
The other, as you may have guessed, is the intent-to-use application. In this case, an applicant still must be the first to file with the USPTO before any other party puts the trademark into use. What separates an intent-to-use application is that the applicant must then put the trademark into active use at some later date. This typically involves a separate registration process, along with an additional fee. Consider it your company’s way of earmarking a trademark that, for whatever reason, you’re unable to fully claim until a later date.
In the paperwork, the distinction between these two types of applications comes into play most overtly when it's time to declare the basis for why you are filing. You’ll see an option for Intent to Use that must be selected to establish your strategic use of the trademark in question. The USPTO can assist with any other questions that may arise, but by and large, your intention to use is officially on record once you’ve completed these steps.
Filing Dates and Extensions
Considering that intent-to-use applications are filed before any action regarding the trademark is taken, you may be wondering how large of a window you have before you actually have to make good on your intentions to use the trademark. For the most part, you have six months from the date your application is approved to use it, after which point you can opt for six-month extensions for up to three years.
One of the key benefits of filing an intent-to-use application is that, once you put the trademark into actual use, your initial filing date serves as your first usage. In this case, your ownership of the trademark predates usage, giving you an edge on any other parties who may challenge your trademark down the line. Since your company will be the holder on record for your trademark, you may find it much easier to assert that you are, in fact, the originator.
Timing and Considerations
Of course, whether you decide to file a traditional trademark or opt for an intent-to-use application is a personal decision that lies with you and your company. Ultimately, you need to do what you feel you can manage and what will best serve your business over time. But, if you do go with an intent-to-use application, then we advise you to file as soon as you can. After all, this is the best way to secure the earliest date of first use, as we described above.
Before you do, bear in mind that there is a price to pay. An intent-to-use application is usually at least $100 more expensive than actual use, and that’s not counting the additional $150 you’ll need for each six-month extension you purchase. So, as with so much in the business world, it truly boils down to strategy. How can you best use the intent-to-use application to underscore your long-term business goals?
Do your research first and ensure that your trademark is something special, that it is unequivocally yours and that you anticipate this initial investment will pay off in the long run. If, for instance, the trademark is legally weak, you will likely be forced to establish your ownership of it once you put it into actual use. On the other hand, if you wind up abandoning your intention to use the trademark, this could adversely affect your planned ownership. So think it through first.
The Best of Intentions
As you’re now aware, there’s a lot more involved in dealing with the USPTO than simply knowing how to reserve a business name for your company. In the end, it’s always best to be on the safe side when it comes to securing your business’ future. At Incfile, we guide you in doing just that, ensuring that your company has everything it needs to remain competitive and in compliance with the rest of your industry. The business landscape is as crowded as ever, and you cannot afford to be unprepared for the road ahead. With our extensive resources, you’ll be ready to build your business to last. To learn more about how we can help, check out our website and get started today!