Learning how to register a trademark can ensure that the name, catch phrase, logo, and sounds that your business uses are protected. Trademarks help distinguish companies from one another and helps shoppers know what to expect from the products and services that they purchase. Learn how to register a trademark and what this provides to ensure you have the legal protection that you need.

What Is a Trademark?

A company can register online for a trademark for its name and similar materials. The process takes less than 90 minutes and is done through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.

Trademark protection is extended to the first person or business that uses a particular mark in a particular area. The mark doesn't have to be registered to enjoy trademark protections. A company's trademark is its “brand name”: the name, catch phrase, and logo that make a company unique. When a service business has these protections, they're known as a “servicemark.”

A trademark can include the following:

  • Any words, letters, or numbers that comprise a business' unique name.
  • A logo or similar creative mark.
  • Sounds, such as a jingle or sound clip unique to your brand.

You retain many rights simply by using a business name commercially. Registering a trademark and maintaining that registration, however, demonstrates that you're using that name and protecting it. You may also register a trademark that you aren't currently using. However, you'll have to explain why you aren't using it and declare that you aren't permanently abandoning the trademark.

Guidelines for Registering a Trademark

Registering for a trademark starts with checking whether the content you want to register is already in use. Visit the Trademark Electronic Search System database to perform a search. After confirming that you can use your trademarked material, you may move forward with the application. This process requires the following information:

  • The goods and services you'll use the trademark for
  • The date when you first used the trademark commercially
  • Whether you're trademarking a design component in addition to other materials

If you run an online business, don't register the domain with a specific extension, like ".com" or ".net". Registering a domain name this way would allow another business to register the same name with a different extension. Instead, just register the domain name without the extension.

Costs for Registering a Trademark

Expect to pay the following costs to register a trademark:

  • Between $275 and $325 for online registration
  • $100 to register for an International Trademark Application through the Trademark Electronic Application System or $200 to register with physical paperwork
  • Separate fees for each product or service you're registering. For example, printed books and e-books are registered separately, even if you're publishing the same book through these two mediums.

How to Register a Trademark

Follow these steps to register a trademark one your own:

  • Search for similar trademarks already registered.
  • Register your trademark internationally and pay the registration fee.
  • Include an example of your trademark in use with your application.
  • Wait for the USPTO to respond. This should take roughly six months.
  • Classify the content in your trademark using the USPTO's Acceptable Identification of Goods.
  • If you're trademarking a logo, include a JPG image of the content.

In addition to these steps, note that your trademark material can't:

  • Include immoral, deceptive, or scandalous materials
  • Disparage or falsely portray a person, institution, belief, or national symbol
  • Use the U.S. flag
  • Include the name of a person or identify a person without their consent
  • Resemble an already registered trademark
  • Have a name that is vaguely or deceptively descriptive (i.e., “Sandwich Shop”)

After applying, you'll receive a filing number. Use this to track your application on the Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval System. Once your trademark is approved, you'll need to re-register at the 6-, 10- and 20-year marks to keep those trademark protections.

Though you can register a trademark on your own, you may need the help of a trademark attorney in certain situations. These specialists can help if your registration is contested, if there are issues with your trademarked material being too generic, and if you want to seek trademark protections outside of the U.S.

A trademark attorney can also help you:

  • Perform a more extensive search of the Trademark Electronic Search System database
  • Identify any potential problems with your trademark
  • File for a trademark
  • Meet all legal requirements and deadlines
  • File all relevant materials correctly the first time
  • Confirm that all your application material is in order before you apply

If you need help with registering a trademark, 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 like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.