What is a Trademark?
Trademarks and service marks are intellectual property. They protect brand names and logos used on goods and services. There are two kinds of trademarks. First a mark in the form of a word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods from the goods of others. There is a version for services as well, called a service mark. A service mark is the same as a trademark except it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service, instead of goods.
Trademarks and service marks protect brand, business names, and logos. You are not required to register trade or service marks. However, trademark registration offers at least three advantages. First is notice to the public of your claim. Second is a legal presumption of ownership nationwide. And, third is the exclusive right to use it on your goods or services.
You can register your own trade or service mark. But, the registration process is a legal proceeding that requires you to act within certain deadlines. Here are links to details on the two kinds of trademarks, and details on using a trademark.
A trademark can potentially last essentially indefinitely in the form of an unlimited chain of ten year periods. In other words, a trade or service mark can last indefinitely (like the business it is attached to) provided the legal requirements for post registration maintenance and renewal are timely filed and paid every ten years.
In the United States, registered trademarks are listed on the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS. You can access TESS here. We highly recommend searching TESS for your new business name when setting up a new business to determine availability of trademarking it.
For international protection, there is the Madrid Protocol. After a national application is filed (basic application), or issued (basic registration) the Madrid Protocol offers a single international application to seek or get protection for the mark in other countries. It is a cost-effective, efficient, and centralized way for a trademark owner to seek international protection for a mark. The process is fling one international application in “the office of origin” where the applicant is a citizen. The office of origin for U.S. nationals is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) – almost always. Read more about the Madrid Protocol at the USPTO.
Kinds of Marks
In order to trademark a brand, business name, or logo you register your mark with the USPTO. You can apply for two kinds of trademarks. First is the standard character mark. Second is the special form mark. You can apply for both.
- A standard character mark is a specific arrangement of number or letters, for example, Carson Patents. Our corporation name, Carson Patents, is trademarked. Our mark is protected no matter how the text is displayed. If your logo only consists of only a business name or slogan, a standard character mark is ideal. The advantage of a standard character mark is flexibility in how you display your logo (i.e.: the colors you use, the style, or font).
- A special form mark is for a your logo which consists of a specific font, design, or a combination of the two. Trademark application for a special form mark must include an image of your mark. Importantly, the image submitted is the mark protected if the application is granted. You need to make sure that you submit your logo exactly as you want it protected. If your logo consists of only a logo and business name or slogan, a special form mark is ideal. The advantages of a special form mark is protection for an illustration, or a combination of an illustration and text in a specific font, or color scheme.
Using a Trademark
You do not have to use the “™” or “®” text next to your logo, brand, or business name. However, when your logo, brand, or business name is trademarked you can be using a trademark symbol. Using the “™” is governed by local, state, or foreign laws. Check with an attorney licensed in your state or a lawyer practicing intellectual property law.
The letter ‘R’ inside a circle, the “®” symbol, is the federal registration symbol and you can use it if your mark is registered with the USPTO. There are two different registrations. If your application is granted, the mark will be listed the Principal Register on TESS, and then you can use the “®” mark. If your mark is denied, it may still be possible to get on the Supplemental Register and be listed on TESS, and then you can use the “®” mark. When your mark is listed on either the principal register or the supplemental register, you can use the “®” mark.
For example: “Carson Patents”, is has a registered mark. Carson Patents is listed on the supplemental register at the USPTO. Thus, we can, and do frequently use the “®” symbol at the end of our name. For example, Carson Patents® in our logo.
How much does it cost?
The cost to trademark a logo, brand, business name depends on the kind of mark and the number of classes. Filing an application for your logo, brand, or business name will cost between $250 and $750 per class, plus attorney fees. Carson Patents® typical attorney fees are between $500 – $2500 to conduct the business name search, and to prepare, file, and monitor your trademark application at the USPTO through the receipt of the review of the examining attorney.
Based on the review of the examining attorney, and other USPTO actions required there may be additional attorney fees to prepare and file a complete and proper response. Typical attorney fees are between $250 – $1000 to prepare and file a complete and proper response to an official letter from the USPTO. For us to monitor and manage an issued mark, there is an annual charge of $420.
When to apply
If you are interested in using a trademark you should apply as soon as you start using the business name. Businesses typically register their names with their state and local authorities. However, provided that no one else is using it, your business name is protected as soon as you start using it. To register a business name with a state there is a search required to ensure no one else is using the business name. However, without registration common law protects you locally from another business using your name.
The individual States offer registration, but a registration at the USPTO is federal. The advantages of registration include the ability to register the name in all 50 states (and other countries). You can sue in federal court to protect your branding. Additionally, registering ensures you are not violating another business name by using a similar name.
Using a Trademark Important TIP: Images of “use in commerce” are typically required for an application. Having it on your website before you apply is fine.