States where our Trademark Attorneys can Assist you
If you're running a business, your brand is everything to you. The best way to protect that brand, as well as any slogans, designs, or other identifying marks, is through the use of one or more trademarks. Trademarks provide protection and exclusive use of those unique marks that give your brand an identity and creative edge. An effective trademark will stick in your customer's minds and help drive your business. This is why it's so important to protect your trademark, which is a form of intellectual property (IP).
While you don't necessarily have to file or register a trademark to use it or denote it as one, registry can provide you greater protections under the law. However, if you wish to register a trademark, you'll want the best possible help, and that means finding the best trademark attorney, to avoid critical mistakes. Explore the reasons why it's so important to register and defend trademarks, and how to find top trademark attorneys to protect your brand and Intellectual Property.
Why Hire a Trademark Lawyer
There are countless reasons that a person or business would need a trademark lawyer. Some of these reasons include:
- Likelihood of confusion: In trademark law, there is something known as likelihood of confusion. This means that two businesses are using very similar trademarks. Usually, this will end in a lawsuit. A trademark lawyer can help you avoid confusion, including helping you make sure your mark is unique. They can also help you with litigation if someone infringes on your mark.
- Documentation: Registering for a trademark requires a high-level of documentation. If you fail to provide a piece of documentation, your registration may be denied. Your trademark lawyer will know exactly what information you will need to provide to earn your trademark and will be able to help you organize and submit this information to the USPTO.
- Protecting Your IP Around the World: If you plan to expand your business overseas, you will also need an international trademark. Registering for an international trademark can be much different than acquiring a domestic mark. A good trademark lawyer will be able to help you register your mark abroad so that your intellectual property is fully protected.
Hiring a trademark lawyer also means getting help understanding the complex requirements of intellectual property law. Some of the information that you and your trademark lawyer may discuss includes:Trademarks
Trademarks exist for one purpose: to protect your brand. Trademarks are words, designs, symbols, slogans, and the like, which distinguish you from your competitors and provide a competitive edge for your brand. Examples of trademarks include the Apple symbol, the Android logo, and the golden arches of McDonald's. Even the names "Apple" and "Microsoft" are trademarks, as they relate to business use.
For companies that sell services rather than goods, a concept similar to a trademark exists. This is called a service mark. It provides the same protections as a trademark, but just refers to a different kind of business.Registered vs. Unregistered Trademarks
Trademark rights are technically established the moment you begin using a mark in commerce. You don't have to register a mark to claim it; as soon as you begin using the mark you can place a ™ indicator after it to claim it as your own. If you formally register the mark, you can begin using an ® designation, and you receive extra protection under the law.
Registering a trademark can be a tricky prospect. You need to first establish that there are no other marks that are substantially similar to yours and are currently in use. In addition, you'll need to establish that your mark is unique. The more distinctive your mark is, the stronger it will be. Vague marks, or marks that are too similar to existing marks, will almost always be denied registration. Additionally, without a strong mark, it can be hard to combat trademark infringement.
A completely original logo, for example, is a strong mark. More common words can be tricky. Consider "Apple," for example. This is a common word denoting fruit. Apply it to technology, on the other hand, and it becomes pretty unique. Apple, then, has a trademark on the use of that term as it applies to computers and technology, but not on, say, a restaurant that serves apple pie.
Once you are able to establish the uniqueness and strength of your mark, registering it requires providing an example of the mark showing exactly how it's used in commerce. You'll also need to identify the classifications of services or goods to which it will apply. The USPTO maintains a comprehensive list of classes, and you'll want to pick the right ones to apply to your mark, to get the right protections. This is another area in which an attorney can be very helpful.Protecting Your Trademark
Trademarks last indefinitely, as long as they are defended, but registration for continued use of the ® mark must be done in cycles. You'll need to file for maintaining your mark between five and six years after your initial registration. You'll then have to file between years nine and ten, and then every ten years thereafter. If your registration is canceled, it can sometimes be very difficult to get it registered again.
You also need to continue using and defending your mark for the entire time you want protection. Should you stop using or defending your mark, it is considered "abandoned" and you lose the legal protections surrounding it. You should expect your mark to be challenged by competitors. This is why it's so important to work with the best trademark attorneys you can find.The Drawbacks of Self-Representation
Those who try to represent their own trademark legal interests are putting themselves at great risk for little gain. Even still, many small business owners and startups who believe they can't afford an attorney try to protect their own interests. While you may be able to register your trademark yourself, it will be much easier when you hire an attorney. Attorneys who are familiar with trademark law will be able to effectively move your mark through the registration process.
It's not uncommon to have an application rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and without legal representation, you could have difficulty fighting to get your mark registered. If someone challenges your mark, which happens very often, you won't have the knowledge and experience to defend your rights.
Court cases involving trademarks are not uncommon, either. When someone infringes on your mark, or challenges your ownership, you'll need someone with the experience and tools to help defend your rights and keep your brand distinct from competition and challengers. It's true that attorneys can be costly, but the value of your business and brand is far more than you'll spend on representation.
How to Find the Best Trademark Lawyer
Once you've got a list of what to look for in your attorney, you're ready to start your search. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways in which you can find a trademark lawyer in your city. Follow these steps to find a great trademark lawyer:
- Make a List: The first step is to make a list of attorneys in your area. You want at least four and up to a dozen names on this initial list.
- Background Checks: Second, check out each attorney on the USPTO website. Using the advanced search function, you can search on the lawyer's name. Try the last name first, then use the first name if needed. If the attorney is part of a larger firm you can search by the senior partners of the firm, but you'll need to clarify later that the specific lawyer you're considering was involved in the cases you find.
- Interview: Next, interview the top few attorneys on your list. Get a feel for their outlook, their personality, their experience, and their knowledge of the field. Get to know whether they're experienced not just with trademarks, but with your specific industry. A lawyer with a lot of experience in restaurant trademarks may not be the best for a technology startup.
Questions for Your Trademark Lawyer
When you start your search for trademark attorneys to represent your interests, you want to be sure you're working with the best lawyers possible. When looking for a top lawyer in trademark and intellectual property, keep the following things in mind:
- Are they specialized in trademark law? Usually, an attorney who advertises themselves as being adept in all areas isn't the best option for any area. An attorney that specializes in trademark law is the best choice. When an attorney focuses on multiple legal disciplines, it can cause them to miss important details in your case. Make sure that you're working, above all else, with a lawyer who knows the field of trademark law.
- Will they treat you as a partner? A good attorney will get to know you and will appreciate the fact that you're competent in knowing your business and brand. You want a partner who will work with you, not someone who is just going to dictate strategy. An attorney who seems as though he or she won't keep you involved in the registration process isn't the right one for you.
- Do they have a reputation for honesty and solid service? Ask if they can provide a list of references, testimonials, and successful case resolutions. The more established their history, the better off you'll be working with them. Pay special attention to their reputation for communication. You want a top lawyer who will provide regular updates on your case.
- Is the attorney personable? Along the same lines, is he or she easy to talk to, friendly and approachable? This may not seem as important, but this is someone with whom you're going to have a relationship. You should be able to get along well. If you and your attorney's personalities don't match, it can make registering your trademark much more stressful than it needs to be.
- How long have they been in business? Experience means a lot when it comes to legal services. The longer they've been in business, and the more varied their cases, the more likely it will be that they'll be better equipped to handle unexpected happenings. Attorneys with minimal experience may not know how to effectively register your trademark. They may also be out of their depth if your mark is challenged or in the event of litigation.
- Are they willing to seek out-of-court solutions? Going to court is almost never the best solution to a dispute. Court cases are long, drawn out, and quite expensive. Even more, they tend to be "all or nothing" affairs where you win or suffer a very costly loss. Mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and other alternate ways of resolving your issues can be much better in the long run.
- Are they local? There are a lot of reasons why you want an attorney close to you. It makes for easier communication and much more convenient meetings, and it's likely that you'll have more than a few of these.
- What Does Registration Cost? The cost of registering a trademark depends on a broad variety of factors. The searches you conduct to establish your mark as unique, the efforts to establish its strength, your legal fees, and the number of goods or service area classifications under which you want to register all have a marked effect on cost. It's in your best interest to talk with your trademark attorney about the costs before you begin the process, so you'll have an idea up front.
The process of establishing, maintaining and defending trademarks can be complicated and intense. Finding the right attorney to defend your rights and provide outstanding legal counsel about all issues related to your intellectual property is essential to your success.
UpCounsel is here to help. We maintain a comprehensive database of the very best trademark attorneys out there. Our lawyers have attended universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and other well-respected schools and have years of experience in intellectual property law.
Whether you need a lawyer for a one-time counsel, or to place an ongoing retainer, we've got what you need. Explore our resources and find the best trademark lawyers for your business needs today.
On UpCounsel, you can find and connect with top-rated trademark attorneys & lawyers that provide a range of trademark law services for startups to large businesses. Any of the top-rated trademark lawyers you connect with will be available to help with a variety of your trademark needs on-demand or on an ongoing basis.
From trademark search, filing, and infringement, our network of experienced trademark attorneys can help you with obtaining a registered trademark for a business name, logo, symbol, word, slogan, or device. If you feel another party has infringed on your registered trademark, you can easily hire a trademark lawyer on UpCounsel to help you stop the infringer from using your trademark without your permission. Find and connect with trademark attorneys who can help you today.
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