Hurry Up And Wait – How To Patiently Register A Trademark For Under $300
REGISTERING TRADEMARKS / NO LAWYER / EASY TO DO
You’ve started a new company – or have a great idea for one – and hope that, with serious marketing and the right branding, you can parlay your vision into licensing deals and big sales.
So, how do you dissuade competitors from infringing once everything starts working as planned? Register!
Registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a relatively simple process that you can manage without the help of a lawyer – provided you have plenty of patience. At minimum you’ll need a newly minted brand name, brand mark or combination thereof, 12 – 16 months for processing and $275 for a non-refundable filing fee.
Registration isn’t required for infringement protection because “common law” rights can be established based on your use of the mark in commerce (more on that here). However, owning a registration allows you to utilize the federal courts to protect your claim, provides public notice and an online listing of your mark and, best of all, gives you permission to use the nifty circled R “®” registration symbol – among other benefits.
Once you’ve completed the process, you’ll have the protection of the law to keep copycats from jacking your brand’s style.
Next, you’ll need to search the USPTO trademark database, before filling out an application in order to confirm that no one is already claiming rights to a particular mark. You can either conduct your search online via the Trademark Electronic Search System or by visiting the Public Search Facility.
To clear the availability of a particular design element such as modified type, shapes or symbols, you will also need to search the database using design codes which can be found in the Design Search Code Manual. This step is actually easier than it sounds and can be ignored entirely if you are confident that your design is original (as in you created it yourself and weren’t overly “influenced” by another logo).
Your mark must be original in name, spelling of name and/or design within its category in order to be considered. Applying for a trademark of the same name as a mark in a non-competing category may be acceptable but will be reviewed on an individual basis by the USPTO.
Hurry up and wait:
After you’ve filed the necessary paperwork, the total time for your application to be processed will take anywhere from one to several years depending on your basis for filing and any legal issues that may arise during the examination of the application by the USPTO.
The good news is that everything is well documented on the USPTO site. Doing a few simple things like filing all of your documents electronically, allowing for email (rather than snail mail) correspondence and checking in on the status of your application every three to four months (on the TARR site) to ensure there are no issues requiring your attention, will help expedite the application.
My personal experience is that the process – if streamlined and error free – is a 16 month endeavor at best. Correspondence from the USPTO is generally clear, concise and easily responded to. Telephone help is also available.
The Wowsburg trademark I included above was officially registered last month – and I was sent a formal and very proper looking certificate by the USPTO to prove it. I can legally show the circled R in conjunction with my logo and no one else will be able to use the Wowsburg® name.
Now, I just have to find time to get started with that serious marketing.
© Markus Horak, 2011