Updated June 28, 2020:

What Does Trademarking a Name Cost?

Filing a trademark for your business name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will cost between $225 and $600, plus legal fees. You can register with most states for $50-$150 if you don't want protection outside your state.

Trademark protection covers the designs, symbols, words or phrases that identify your business as a source of products or services and sets them apart from competitors' offerings. Business names, logos, and product labels can all be trademarked. If your company sells services instead of goods you would technically use the term "service mark" instead of trademark, but most people use the word "trademark" when talking about services as well as goods.

Federal Trademark Information

Note: Each application covers one class of business, so if your business sells different types of goods and services (like movies and posters) you might need to pay the following fees more than once.

E-file fees: If you file your federal trademark online at the USPTO website, you can use the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). A regular TEAS has a $400 fee, but if you can use the TEAS Reduced Fee (TEAS RF) form the fee is only $275. If your application is very simple you might be able to use the TEAS Plus form for just $225.

Paper filing fees: Filing a paper form with the USPTO is more expensive at $600.

Legal fees: Lawyers will typically charge $500-$2000 to conduct a business name search and file your trademark for you.

State Trademark Information

Most businesses choose federal protection, but if your business is very localized you might be content with only a state-level trademark.

Corporations and LLCs: When you form your business entity with the state, business name registration is included. Fees to form a corporation or LLC vary by state but are usually less than $150.

Sole proprietors and partnerships: If you register a "fictitious name" form with the state, county, or city, your business name is registered at the same time. Costs vary by region, but $50–$150 is typical. If you use your legal name as your business name, you won't be required to register your name and will need to apply to your Secretary of State if you want a trademark at the state level.

Why Is Trademarking a Name Important?

Federal registration protects you in all 50 states, plus offers additional benefits:

  • "Prima facie" proof of ownership (courts accept your ownership without further proof)
  • A listing in the USPTO's online records
  • The right to use the ® symbol with your business name
  • Public notice of the trademark, so an infringer can't claim they didn't know about your trademark even if you don't use the ® symbol
  • The right to file a lawsuit in Federal Court if someone else uses your business name
  • The right to recover cash damages and attorney's fees in Federal Court if you've used the symbol "®" on your business name and someone still uses it
  • The right to record the trademark with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service to block counterfeit products at the border
  • The right to register your business name in foreign countries

Important Data on Name Trademarking Costs

  • 50–80 percent: The number of trademark filingsrejected each year on their first try, usually because the forms aren't completed properly or the filer didn't do a full search to see if anyone else was using their name.
  • $400–$500: What some discount legal sites charge for trademark services. This fee covers helping you with your application only. It doesn't include any support if your application is rejected and may not include a search.
  • $1000–$2000: Typical legal fees charged by an experienced trademark attorney.
  • Six months to three years: The average amount of time it actually takes to fully complete a trademark filing.

Other Costs of Trademarking a Name

If you haven't started doing business under the name you want to trademark, the filing will involve some extra steps and cost. About 12 weeks after you apply, the USPTO will send you a notice. You then have six months to either file a Statement of Use (with a $100 fee) accompanied by proof that you've started using the business name, or if you haven't started transacting business yet you can request a six-month extension. If you use an attorney, you'll also need to pay legal fees to prepare the statement and proof that you are using the name. The legal fees range between $250 and $700.

Common Mistakes

  • Choosing an attorney who doesn't have specific trademark experience
  • Not doing enough research to make sure your business name isn't similar to someone else's
  • Not choosing the correct class of business to file under
  • Not applying for more than one class if you have different business activities
  • Trademarking your logo but not your business name
  • Trying to register a business name the USPTO considers too generic, like "fine dining" or "Used Cars"
  • Trademarking your URL with the suffix; if your website is sparklewidgets.com, you should usually register Sparkle Widgets or Sparklewidgets as your business name so you can protect yourself more broadly

Global Business

  • Foreign businesses that want to trademark their names in the United States have three choices: a foreign application, a foreign registration, or a Madrid Protocol application.
  • U.S. businesses that do business overseas can register their names with the government in each country where they plan to have a presence.
  • You can record your trademarked name with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service to stop counterfeit goods bearing your name at the border.

Reasons You Might Not Trademark Your Business Name

Your business name is protected the moment you start using it, even without being registered, as long as it doesn't already belong to someone else. Common law trademark protects you locally from another business using your name. If you've registered your business entity or fictitious (DBA) name with the state, you already have some federal protection, too.

Reasons to Trademark Your Business name

A federal trademark lets you register your business name in all 50 states and in other countries. If your name is trademarked federally, you can sue in federal court to protect your branding. Lawsuits might let you collect cash awards or even press criminal charges against anyone who tries to use your business name. You'll also be making sure that you're not violating someone else's trademark by using a similar name.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between trademark, patent, and copyright?

All three offer legal protection for businesses against theft, but they cover different types of property. Trademarks (or service marks) protect business names, phrases, and logos that identify the company or its products. Copyright protects creative works like books, songs, dances, or works of art. Patents cover inventions, systems of production, and chemical structures.

  • What does it cost to trademark a business name?

Filing fees range from $225–$600 per business class, depending on the method of filing. Attorney fees can range from $500–$2000.

  • Are business names protected by trademark law if they aren't registered?

Using a business name on your products, packaging, signs, or print ads makes a business name legally yours if no one else in the area is already using it. That ownership only applies locally, though, and you will have to be able to prove that you were the first to use it if you want to protect it in court.

  • Is it better to trademark your logo or your business name?

If you want full protection of your business identity, you'll need to trademark your business name and logo separately. But if you can only afford one, it's better to register your business name. It's much easier to change your logo than your business name, and trademarking just your name gives you broader protection than securing only your logo.

Steps to Trademark a Business Name

Name Choice: Common or generic words cannot be trademarked as a business name. You also won't be able to trademark a name that is very similar to someone else's , especially if the similar name belongs to a competitor.

Trademark Search: The PTSO's Trademark Electronic Search System offers a place to search for businesses with similar names to yours. Expect to pay your attorney $300 and up to search the database for you, or you can hire a search company like CompuMark. If you do this work yourself, search carefully for every possible variation of your name. If you miss something that the PTSO considers a close match, your application will be denied and you will forfeit the fees you pay.

Trademark Application: The USPTO offers 45 different classes of business, like "apparel" or "undertaking." You'll need to file an application for each class of business you engage in. The USPTO prefers electronic applications through the TEAS system at www.uspto.gov. Paper applications should be mailed to Commissioner for Trademarks, P.O. Box 1451, Alexandria, VA 22313-1451. Fax applications are not accepted.

Review: Your application will be reviewed by an examining attorney to decide whether your request meets all the requirement. The examining attorney uses the Trademark Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq., and the Trademark Rules of Practice, 37 C.F.R. Part 2 to evaluate your application. This stage takes several months.

Office Action: If the examining attorney runs into any problems with your application, they will send an "office action" asking you or your attorney to address the issues.

Opposition: If your application passes the review, your business name will be put up for "opposition." This lets anyone using a similar name protest your trademark. If no one opposes, your newly trademarked name will be listed on either the Primary or Supplemental Register.

Maintain: After five years, you'll submit a "Declaration of Continued Use" along with proof that you are still using the business name. This filing will cost $100. Renewing your trademark happens after nine years and costs $400-$500 per class of goods/services.

Trademark Watch: Your lawyer or a company like Thomson Compumark can set up a "trademark watch" that will let you know you when someone else tries to trademark a business name that matches yours too closely. You can then decide whether to send a cease and desist letter or bring a lawsuit.

Where to Get Help

If you have questions about trademarking your business name, you can post your question or concern on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top five 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. They work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

Your business name is at the heart of your brand identity. Registering your trademark will help you protect your brand and establish your business as a strong presence in the marketplace.