Would you like to use a special “brand name” for your business or product to be legally protected from competitors? If so, you should learn more about how to file a trademark. Getting a trademark can help protect your intellectual property, carve out a unique niche for your business, enhance your marketing efforts and give your business additional credibility and legitimacy.
But the process of filing a trademark is not easy. Learn more about how to get a trademark for your business, and whether you should do it on your own or get professional support to navigate the trademark registration process.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark, sometimes also called a “service mark,” is a legally protected brand name that lets your business use a particular word, name, phrase or combination or words to distinguish your business as a unique source of goods or services. It also separates your business’s goods or services from other sellers in the marketplace. If you have a unique product or memorable business name that you want to help stand out from the competition, getting a trademark might be a good strategy for your business.
A trademark is different from a patent or copyright. A patent gives the patent holder certain legal rights to profit from an invention or innovation for a certain number of years. A copyright assigns intellectual property rights to the creator or author of certain types of original creative or artistic work such as books, songs or films. Unlike patents and copyrights, trademarks do not expire, as long as you keep using the trademark and keep maintaining the expected schedule of ongoing trademark filings and fees.
Getting a trademark can give your business certain legal rights in case a competitor tries to steal your brand name or replicate your product offerings. It can also give you first, exclusive rights to the name of your business if you want to trademark your business name. For these and other reasons, trademarks can be worth a lot of money to your business.
How Do You File a Trademark Application?
The process of how to file a trademark application is not easy. Getting an official trademark means that you have to go through a formal process to demonstrate to the federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) why your business name or product name is unique and deserving of legal protection and federal registration.
The USPTO website has a detailed page on trademark basics where you can start to learn more about the trademark registration process, which includes:
- Deciding whether your trademark is federally registrable and legally protectable. You need to know how to properly identify your business’s unique “trademark-worthy” goods or services and have a proper legal basis for filing a trademark.
- Meeting the deadlines for the trademark registration process. If you miss a deadline, you might lose your rights to a trademark.
- Searching the trademark database — called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) — to see if your desired trademark is still available, or has already been taken.
- Understanding how to use the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). (The USPTO website has detailed video tutorials for how its systems and processes work.)
Trademark Registration Changes Due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has caused the USPTO to make a few changes to the process for getting a trademark. If you have a product or service that is related to fighting COVID-19, you can apply for prioritized initial examination of your trademark application.
However, this prioritized examination is only available if you are trying to get a trademark registered for medical goods or services related to COVID-19, including:
- Medical devices related to diagnosing, preventing, treating or curing COVID-19, such as diagnostic tests, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) that are subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Medical research services or other medical services related to diagnosis, prevention, treatment or cure for COVID-19.
- Pharmaceutical products to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 and are subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Learn more here about whether your trademark application might qualify for prioritized initial examination due to COVID-19.
Do You Need a Lawyer to File a Trademark?
The trademark process is a complex legal proceeding. If you are based in the U.S., you are not required to have an attorney represent you at the USPTO, but the USPTO strongly encourages you to hire an attorney to help you with the process.
Think of it this way: How many small business owners still do their own taxes? Sure, you could do your taxes yourself, but it’s often easier to hire a professional to help you.
In the same way, hiring an attorney to help you through the trademark registration process can help you avoid mistakes, save time and possibly protect you from missing out on your choice of trademark. Do you really want to figure out all these complex processes and intellectual property systems on your own, or would you rather have a professional by your side?
Incfile can help. Incfile’s Trademark Name Search and Registration service helps you identify your choice of trademark and register your trademark with the help of legal counsel from an experienced trademark attorney. Our service costs $199 plus the federal filing fee with the USPTO.
If you want to do it all yourself, the USPTO has a lot of informative videos and tutorials to show you how to navigate the process of filing a trademark. But if you work with an experienced professional who knows the process and can communicate with the USPTO on your behalf and make sure you meet the deadlines, you are likely to save time, save money and maintain your focus on running your business.
Getting the right trademark for your brand can have a massive impact on your future growth and intellectual property rights. Why not get it done right the first time? Talk to Incfile today and we can connect you with one of our experienced attorney partners for a reasonable flat fee.