Are you considering trademarking your business name? Here’s everything you need to know to help you figure out if this is the right step for you.
Jun 02, 2021
6 min read
Jun 02, 2021
6 min read
Are you a small business owner considering a trademark for your brand? If so, first consider whether this is the right move for your company by asking yourself if a trademark is pertinent to your products or services.
Trademarks are not a requirement for all business names, and an application should be carefully considered. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of business names and trademarks, drop your email below to subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter with small business resources and insider tips.
That being said, let us provide you everything you need to know about this type of business name licensing and how to apply. Here are some common questions about trademarks:
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a type of licensing done through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that protects brand names, symbols, logos, designs, and other aspects of a business’s branding. Most often, they’re used to protect the names of goods and services, but shouldn’t be confused with copyrights or patents.
Trademarks go hand in hand with business names and can be used to protect your brand at a national level.
Should I Trademark My Business Name?
Most businesses should at least consider trademarking their names. Whether you have just submitted your LLC paperwork or are getting ready to open a second location, having your business name registered and trademarked protects you from naming competition within your industry.
There are three major things to consider when deciding to trademark your business name or not:
Your budget: Do you have the means to pay the application fee(s)?
Your industry: Are you in a highly competitive industry with a coveted business name?
Your company’s geographic span: Is your business nationwide? How many locations do you have? How recognizable is your company name expected to be?
Reviewing and answering these questions will help you more easily determine whether you’re in the ballpark for needing a trademark.
How to Prepare
Before registering, you’ll want to make sure your trademark is available and registerable through the USPTO. Registrable trademarks must not cause a likelihood of confusion with another brand or their goods and services.
You also want to choose a strong mark that will not be too difficult to protect legally. Meaning, your mark should avoid using generic and common words. You’ll want to be cautious about descriptive words like “spotless” for an auto detailing business or “scrumptious” for a bakery.
According to the USPTO, the best marks are suggestive like “In-N-Out Burger” for a fast-food restaurant, or arbitrary like “Amazon” for e-commerce.
If you’re ready to register your trademark, be sure to:
Choose the format of your mark.
Establish the goods and services your trademark will cover.
Do your research by looking for similar names and designs that may already be in use or protected.
Consider hiring an attorney that specializes in trademark law.
Registering Your Mark
There are four steps to follow to trademark your name:
1. Apply Online
To begin your application, you’ll first create an account on the USPTO website and begin your application. You will be asked a series of questions about your business including, your name, location, size, etc.
The difference between the two applications depends on the specifics of your business. For more information on fees and monitoring your application status and application details, be sure to visit the USPTO application information page.
2. Wait for an Examination
Part of the trademarking process is an examination. In other words, your application will be reviewed by a designated USPTO examining attorney to ensure yours is on par in the way of fees, qualifications, and eligibility. Take note, this process may take up to several months.
3. View Your Results
After examination, the USPTO will contact you with your application results.
If you’re approved, your application moves onto what’s called “publication.” This is a native process of the USPTO where they publish your requested name in the “Official Gazette”— a weekly publication of approved business trademarks.
The purpose of this is to broadcast the name publicly, such that citizens have the opportunity to view and oppose a verified trademark for reasons that may not have been apparent to the board. (Similar to the process of obtaining an alcohol license.) Viewers then have 30 days to oppose a name—otherwise, the USPTO will issue your registration.
If your application is denied, the USPTO will send you a letter, to which you have 60 days to respond. If you don’t respond, your application will be considered abandoned.
Be sure to monitor your trademark application closely during this process to ensure it’s progressing timely. Visit this section of the USPTO website for more details on trademark application approvals and denials.
4. Keep Up With Your Registration
Last but not least, don’t forget to maintain your trademark registration once you have it. What does this mean?
Address any issues in the post-application trademarking process.
Continually monitor your registration status.
Update your email address if it changes and your postal address if you move residencies.
Put your trademark to work. Although a trademark helps protect from infringement, it’s your responsibility to monitor and take action against improper use of your trademark.
Keeping up with your trademark application and registration is a big, yet often foregone, part of owning a business. Earning and protecting your trademark is one step of many that goes a long way to professionalize your business and distinguish yourself from competitors.
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