Updated July 9, 2020:

Cheap trademark filing without the assistance of an attorney is possible but not recommended. As with any legal process, it's easy to make mistakes that can cost you a lot of money down the road. However, if you are adamant about going it on your own, there are steps you can follow.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is an image, a logo, a phrase, a word, or some combination of these that identifies a specific product or service in the business world. The famous red circle with the words "Coca-Cola" inside is an example of a trademark that identifies a particular soda beverage. A trademark is a valuable part of the business's intellectual property. It distinguishes the goods or services that this company produces from other similar goods or services on the market.

Steps to take to register a trademark

  1. Compile all the information you'll need before you sit down to file. Review the Trademark Basics for New Filers to get started.
  2. Check to see if the trademark you want to use has not already been claimed. The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) lets you research pending and registered marks.
  3. Decide which class or classes you are filing under, select how you will pay, and have your specimen document ready if that is applicable to your project. You also need a sample of the trademark you want to register showing that it is currently in use. A screenshot from a website or a photo of the product with the mark displayed is acceptable.
  4. When you're ready to begin, go to the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) to start your application. This is an official tool of the United States government.
  5. Watch your email for any follow-up questions or instructions. Check your spam filters as well. If you don't run into delays, you'll receive your certificate in the mail in six to nine months.

When to use the TM and circle-R logos

You can use the TM symbol (™) before you officially register your trademark. In fact, you can use it even if you decide never to register it at all. This is known as a common-law mark that tells others you have a claim on that design.

If you do decide to register your trademark, you can use the circle R logo (®) once your design is approved and registered. This logo is known as the federal registration symbol.

What is a file wrapper run?

If a conflict develops during the federal trademark research, the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) may need to investigate further. This happens sometimes if another party claims that your mark is too similar to theirs or if the application for a similar design was denied. Records related to these filings are open to the public but not available online through any database provider or through the USPTO itself. A person has to go copy the file. This is called a "file wrapper run," which takes from three to seven days. The fee is $100 per file plus 25 cents per page for the copies. The package can be sent via FedEx for an additional $20.

Monitoring your trademark

Once you own your trademark, you must monitor it for infringement or risk losing your rights to claim it. If another party misuses the mark, you need to write a cease-and-desist letter. If the other party continues to infringe, then you may have to file a lawsuit and go to court.

Service that includes a trademark attorney

Attorneys' fees can run from $250 to $450 per hour for this type of work. Often, a lawyer will use a search firm such as TradeMark Express® to complete the thorough research required. When the system finds a conflict or strong similarity, the client is referred to a TradeMark Express® preferred attorney for help.

TradeMark Express® has been in business since 1992. The company offers:

  • Domestic representation for overseas clients.
  • Trademark application opposition.
  • United States Federal Trademark Application responses.
  • Any additional work required that is outside the scope of TradeMark Express®.
  • International trademark application preparation.
  • A worldwide network of agents who can do trademark and common law searches.

If you need help with a cheap trademark filing, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies such as Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.