Registering trademarks for a company is relatively straightforward. Many companies apply to the United States Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO online without a lawyer in less than an hour and a half. Before you register, check the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System or TESS database to see if another company has already registered a similar or identical trademark. The first entity to use a trademark in the area where it does business receives U.S. trademark protection, even if the mark isn't registered. You'll need a variety of information for trademark registration:

  • The types of products and services that the mark will be used for
  • The date of the trademark's first use in commerce
  • Whether the mark has a design component

Internet businesses that register their domain names shouldn't include an extension like .com or .net. That way, your domain name will be protected with any extension. Also, make the design that your register as general as possible to help you keep your trademark if you make changes. However, it can be difficult to register a name that's too generic, like The Ice Cream Shop. 

The Trademark Registration Process

First, you should decide if you should register your trademark at all. Online registration costs from $275 to $325. The USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System or TEAS Plus form has a lower filing fee, but it has more requirements than the basic TEAS form. There's a separate fee for each product or service you register, and the application usually takes about six months. If you're not sure how long your business will last, registration might not be worth it. If you register, you'll need to decide which format applies to your trademark:

  • A standard character mark is any combination of words, letters, or numbers, like the name of a business.
  • A stylized/design mark, like a logo, has an appearance that you'd like to protect, and it might not have letters or numbers.
  • A sound mark is a tune or jingle.

You'll also need to know your basis for filing the trademark. Use in commerce means you've already used the trademark on products or to advertise services. Intent to use means that your product or service is market-ready, but you haven't introduced it with your trademark yet. It requires an additional form and fee. After you submit your application, a clerk will assign a number to your case and it will go through a review process.

The filing process has strict deadlines, and the information on your application will become public. Your filing fee won't be refunded if your application isn't approved. If it's accepted, you'll get a notice of publication with the publication date, and anyone who feels damaged by your mark will have 30 days to take legal action. If there's no opposition, the trademark fits all guidelines, and it's not already being used by another entity, the USPTO will issue a registration certificate in about 11 weeks. Trademarks usually last for 10 years. If your trademark isn't approved, you can appeal the denial.

Intent to Use Registration

With intent to use registration, you'll receive a notice of allowance and you'll have six months to start using the mark in commerce. If you can't make this deadline, you can ask for a six-month extension. When you start using your trademark in commerce, you'll need to send a specimen, an example of your trademark in use, to the USPTO. You can include an ad or a label that contains your logo.

The Benefits of Registering a Trademark

Registering a trademark has several benefits: 

  • You can sue anyone who uses your trademark without your permission or creates a counterfeit version.
  • You can place the trademark symbol next to your logo to warn others not to use it.
  • You can sell or license your brand.
  • You can obtain registration in other countries more easily.

Whether You Need a Lawyer

A lawyer can help you before, during, and after trademark application with resources and information. A trademark attorney can help you avoid infringement and make sure your application is approved. If you haven't registered for a trademark before, ask a professional to help you.

If you need help with registering trademarks, you can post your legal need or post your job 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.