1. Register a Trademark
2. What is a Trademark?
3. The Process for Registering a Trademark
4. Identifying Similar Trademarks
5. Intent to Use
6. Applying for Federal Registration
7. Maintaining Federal Trademark Registration
8. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Register a Trademark

To register a trademark, you should navigate to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website. Doing so will allow you to check whether someone else has already registered a trademark by the same name.

Most businesses can file a trademark application online in less than 90 minutes, but some choose to consult a lawyer to make sure all their bases are covered.

Registering your trademark online costs between $275 and $325. It requires information related to the trademark's category, the date of the trademark's first commercial use, and any design components.

It's important not to designate a specific design to your trademark if you want to enjoy the broadest level of protection.

After filing the trademark application, you should receive a response within six months.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a brand name, logo, or slogan that identifies goods or services, and distinguishes a business from competitors. A registered trademark can be renewed every 10 years for a renewal fee to offer the trademark owner continuous protection.

The Process for Registering a Trademark

Make sure you get the trademark right from the start, so you won't confuse it with any patent or copyrighted work. Your trademark can be a design, sign, expression, or sound that represents your business, brand, or product.

You will need to choose from three formats for business trademarks:

  • The standard character mark

  • A stylized/design mark

  • A sound mark

Standard character trademarks can combine any words, numbers, or letters without giving any thought to style or font. For example, a standard character mark would include a business name.

A stylized/design mark is more specific. It protects a design or appearance related to the business.

Sound marks include any jingle or tune that represents your brand.

While you do not need a lawyer to file for a trademark, it is a good idea to hire one to perform an extensive search beyond the Trademark Electronic Search System database. This will help identify potential problems that could result in the trademark's refusal.

Since filing for a trademark is a legal process, you cannot get a refund if the trademark is not accepted or if you fail to meet a deadline. Most trademark attorneys charge flat fees that are generally more affordable than risking trademark refusal if the application isn't completed right the first time.

You may also want to have a lawyer's help with responding to any communications sent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's examining attorney.

Identifying Similar Trademarks

To identify a company's trademark, first determine whether the business sells goods or provides services.

You can search through the U.S. Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual by searching for any relevant keywords related to your trademark.

In some cases, you may not find anything on the U.S. Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual website, but there could still be a similar trademark being applied for through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

Check to see if any existing companies, brands, or people have a high percentage of being confused with your business mark. If so, you will need to rethink your trademark.

It's important to remember that you're not just checking for businesses or people with the same name or trademark as yours, but also those who are similar.

Intent to Use

Before applying for a trademark, you need to know how your businesses will use the mark. There are two options available:

  • Commerce

  • Intent to use

Using a trademark in commerce is straightforward enough. It means using the mark in sales, signage, advertising, and other business activities.

Intent to use is a basis for filing the trademark. It suggests that the service or product is almost market-ready. Filing an intent to use trademark requires an extra form and fee.

Applying for Federal Registration

Deciding if you should register your trademark is the first step in any trademark registration. Having a registered trademark means that you can file a lawsuit against anyone who uses your mark without permission.  

Maintaining Federal Trademark Registration

To maintain your trademark registration, you must adhere to the required steps after your application is approved.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the entity responsible for registering and enforcing a person's rights as a trademark holder.

The USPTO is also an invaluable resource for gathering information, asking questions, and checking the trademark registry.

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, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.