How to Register a Trademark

One of the most important things a new entrepreneur can do is register a trademark to protect the business brand identity. A trademark will protect certain words and logos from being used by any other entity, essentially giving the originating business exclusive use. This is important to keep the consumer from becoming confused by two companies that are using the same brand, logo, or slogan.

Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and they are fairly easy to acquire. Forget about services that claim to take the legwork out of registering trademarks; in most cases they are a waste of money. The directions on the USPTO website are very straightforward and can be followed even by those with minimal computer skills.

The first step is to use the website’s search tool to find out if your desired trademark has already been registered by another party. In most cases, the basic search form is sufficient. This tool will search every trademark in existence for the keywords entered. If anything is found, you can click on the listing to see the exact word or phrase that is registered, along with any design elements (logos) that go along with the trademark. The lack of any similar phrases or logos means that you are most likely free to pursue your registration without fear that your registration fee will go to waste on a trademark that has no hope of being approved.

If you do find a conflict, there may still be a chance that you can pursue your registration. Write down the serial number or registration number from the listing in question, and use the website’s Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval tool to find out the status of the application. If the application was cancelled or otherwise put into a “dead” status, you may be free to put in your own application. In this case, professional advice may be advisable.

Once you have determined that there will be no conflict with another mark, you can now apply for your own trademark. The next step is to come up with a description of the goods or services with which the trademark will be used. Again, the USPTO has a tool for this purpose called the Trademark Acceptable Identification of Goods & Services tool. Simply type in the keywords of the goods or services, and the website will attempt to determine the specific class that will apply. It may take some rewording of the keywords, but eventually you will be able to determine which industry class comes closest to describing your business.

Next you must come up with a visual depiction of your trademark. If you have a specific logo that you are registering, this would be a stylized format, and you will have to upload a graphic of the design. Otherwise, you can choose the standard character format option if you are just registering a word or phrase without regard to how it appears.

Finally, a trademark application can be filed online using the Trademark Application Electronic System (TEAS). You will be asked for the words depicting your desired mark, your contact information, and the industry class which you have already chosen in an earlier step. You can also upload a graphic using this tool if your mark is in the stylized format. Then you can pay the registration fee, and you will be on your way to having your own trademark in no time.


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