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Trademark Registration Guide - United States

Protecting your brand is crucial when starting a business. Registering a trademark in the United States involves multiple steps and can seem daunting at first. This guide simplifies the process, enabling you to safeguard your brand effectively.

Understanding Trademarks

A trademark is a type of intellectual property that identifies and distinguishes the goods or services of one source from those of others. Trademarks can be words, names, symbols, sounds, or colours that distinguish goods and services.

A registered trademark grants exclusive rights to the trademark owner, offering legal protection against unauthorised use. Prominent examples include the Apple logo or McDonald’s “Golden Arches”.

The Registration Process

Step 1: Determine If You Need a Trademark

Firstly, you should consider if you need a trademark. If you have a unique product, service, or company name, logo, or tagline that you want to protect, a trademark can provide the legal backing to do so.

Step 2: Identify Your Trademark Type

Your trademark can be any sign that distinguishes your goods or services from others. This could be a word, symbol, phrase, logo, design, image, or a combination of these elements. The type of trademark you have may affect the application process.

Step 3: Conduct a Trademark Search

Before applying for a trademark, you need to conduct a search to ensure your proposed trademark isn’t already registered or pending approval. You can search the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) for this purpose.

Step 4: Prepare Your Application

Once you’ve confirmed your trademark is unique, prepare your application. You need to provide information such as your name and address, a clear representation of your trademark, a list of goods or services associated with your trademark, and a filing basis (either “use in commerce” or “intent to use”).

Step 5: Submit Your Application Online

You can submit your application online via the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Make sure all the information you provide is accurate and complete. Incomplete or incorrect applications may result in delays or refusals.

Costs and Fees

There are several fees associated with trademark registration in the United States.

The initial application fee ranges from $250 to $350 per class of goods or services, depending on the type of application form you use (TEAS Plus, TEAS RF, or TEAS Regular). Note that this fee is non-refundable, even if your trademark isn’t ultimately registered.

Additional fees may apply throughout the process, such as extension requests or statements of use for an “intent-to-use” basis application.

Responding to Office Actions and Oppositions

After your application is filed, it will be assigned to an examining attorney at the USPTO. If the examining attorney identifies any issues with your application, they will issue an Office Action detailing the problems. You must respond to this Office Action within six months.

Once approved by the examining attorney, your trademark will be published in the Trademark Official Gazette. This publication serves as a notice to the public, who are given 30 days to oppose the trademark registration. If opposed, proceedings will occur before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB).

Maintaining Your Trademark

If your trademark registration is successful, you need to maintain it properly. A Statement of Use or Declaration of Excusable Nonuse must be filed between the 5th and 6th year following registration, and every 10 years after that.

While the process can be complex and time-consuming, registering a trademark is essential to protecting your brand. For more complicated situations or questions, it’s best to consult with a trademark attorney or a legal professional experienced in trademark law.

Like the UK, the US also has various forms of intellectual property protection like patents and copyrights, so ensure your business has the necessary protections in place.