If you’re going to engage in a commercial enterprise, you will likely spend a great deal of time, money, and resources creating and developing your unique brands (i.e. your trademarks). After all, your unique brands are what allow you to build consumer loyalty and, in turn, grow and prosper.
Your brands are some of the most valuable assets you will ever own because they embody your reputation and symbolize the goodwill your business has with the purchasing public. And because they are so valuable, they need to be protected against competitors who may try to imitate or disparage them. As such, if you haven’t yet sought protection for your brands by filing a federal trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), then I strongly encourage you to consider doing so.
The Trademark Application Process
A trademark application is a legal document filed with the USPTO for the purpose of seeking federal registration of your trademark. Completing the official USPTO trademark application form is the first step toward federally protecting your trademark and enhancing your legal rights. The application may be filed on an “in use” basis, meaning that your trademark is currently being used in commerce. It can also be filed on an “intent-to-use” basis to reserve your mark while you develop your products and/or services.
Before even applying to federally register your trademark, there are two important steps you should take to avoid wasting time and money. The first is to ensure that your trademark does not fall into one of the several categories of trademarks that are ineligible for registration under any circumstances. The second is to conduct a comprehensive federal trademark search in order to learn whether your trademark is confusingly similar to another mark that is already registered or pending approval. If your trademark is not eligible for registration, or it is likely to cause confusion with another mark, you can be sure that the USPTO will reject your trademark application and you will lose the filing fee you paid when you submitted it.
Applying to register a trademark is often trickier than it appears, so it is vital that you fully educate yourself before heading down the registration path alone. Incomplete or inaccurate information may lead to the delay or denial of your application, severely limit the scope of your trademark protection, or even result in the cancellation of any resulting trademark registration. Needless to say, if you are unfamiliar with the trademark application process, or are unsure of how to properly complete the form, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a trademark attorney to increase the likelihood of successful registration.
It can take up to four months for a USPTO examining attorney to perform an in-depth review your trademark application. Bear in mind that the examining attorney may request clarifications, ask for additional information, or outright refuse registration of your trademark on various legal grounds. Only after you have overcome all issues raised by the examining attorney will your trademark application be allowed to continue through the registration process. Once approved by the examining attorney, your trademark application will still have to clear the opposition period before the USPTO will issue the Certificate of Registration (if your trademark application was filed on an in-use basis) or the Notice of Allowance (if your trademark application was filed on an intent-to-use basis). In the event you are able to successfully register your mark, your federal trademark registration will provide you with many significant benefits and protections, and it will deter others from adopting and using a trademark that is too similar to yours.
Trademark Application Assistance from a Trademark Attorney
If you have any questions about the trademark application process, need some assistance with navigating the trademark application form, or are seeking guidance on whether you should even file a trademark application, it is an excellent idea to contact an experienced and skilled trademark attorney.