Learning how to trademark something yourself need not be a daunting process once it's broken down into steps. A particular word, phrase, design, or symbol associated with your product or service may be registered as a trademark in order to prevent it from being used by another party. A trademark differs from patents, which protect ideas; and copyrights, which protect the expressions of ideas.

How to Develop a Trademark

The first step in the process of trademarking something yourself is to create the actual trademark itself.

  1. Begin by sketching out ideas for your mark. It can be a word, phrase, symbol, logo, or other distinctive mark that identifies your company.
  2. Avoid offensive language or graphics, which may not be registered as trademarks. Foreign words that are considered offensive may not be used, either.
  3. Avoid generic trademarks, which describe an entire category of products or services (e.g. "computer"), instead of a particular brand (e.g., "Windows").
  4. Avoid indistinguishable or weak marks, including geographic marks, descriptive marks, and last names. You may not register a weak mark without first proving that consumers are familiar with the mark and associate it with your goods or services, thus granting it "secondary meaning."
  5. Avoid marks describing a functional feature. Such a feature is something so essential to the type of product or service that it cannot be considered unique to a particular brand. For example, wheels are so essential to the functioning of a car that they may not be used in a trademark for a car model.
  6. Examine other exclusions. It's worthwhile to examine the long list of exclusions as you go about the development of your trademark, in order to develop a unique and appropriate mark. Some of these additional exclusions are previously used media titles, national emblems, foreign words that translate to generic descriptions of the product, geographical descriptions, and more.
  7. Hire a trademark attorney. An experienced attorney will be able to assist you in choosing a successful mark. They will understand the qualities that comprise both strong and weak marks and can help you in your search to determine whether the mark has already been used. In addition, they can help you understand the more complex parts of the application process and support you in making the best attempt to register your trademark. Be sure to hire an attorney who has experience working directly with the USPTO.

Choose a Method of Application

The Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) has three different versions of the application process, which differ in price and complexity level.

  • TEAS regular: The standard TEAS version has more liberal requirements than the following two options and does not require any online communication. The standard TEAS fee is $325 per registered class.
  • TEAS Plus: This version is entirely online, and maintains the strictest requirements for filing. To file with TEAS Plus, you'll need to choose an approved description of your product or service, pay all fees, file a completed application, and agree to correspond with the USPTO entirely online. The TEAS Plus fee is $225 per registered class.
  • TEAS RF (Reduced Fee): This version allows you to pay a slightly reduced fee and also requires that you correspond with the USPTO online. The difference is that you don't need to file a fully completed application upfront. The TEAS RF fee is $275 per registered class.

File Your Trademark

As you file your trademark, you'll need to state the class of goods or services to which it applies. The USPTO utilizes the International Schedule of Classes of Goods and Services. You can search the schedule online to find the appropriate class. You'll also need to provide a precise description of your goods or services. Make sure your description is both succinct and specific.

Upon approval by the USPTO, you'll receive a "notice of publication" in the mail. This refers to your trademark being published in the Official Gazette. Within the following 30 days, anyone can oppose your registration or request an extension of time in which to file an opposition. An opposition might occur if your mark is already "in use." However, these instances are rare.

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