Trademarks registration allows you to secure legal protection for your company's logo, slogan, or other marks that represent your business. A trademark is a distinguishing sign that is used to identify and differentiate the products and services of one company from those of other companies. Trademarks are protected intellectual property.

You can claim a trademark using “TM” or “SM” to let the public know that it's yours, regardless of whether or not you've registered it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, the familiar "®" symbol is only for use after you've officially registered the mark and received approval. You may only use the registration symbol with the mark if it's related to the goods or services you provided with the registration.

How Can I Protect My Trademark?

On the national level, trademark protection comes from registration, which requires filing with a national or regional trademark office and paying the associated fees.

On the international level, there are two options: you can either file a trademark application with each country in which you intend to conduct business, or you can use WIPO's Madrid System

What Rights Does Trademark Registration Provide?

A federal trademark registration on the Principle Register has many benefits:

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Notice to the registrant's claim of ownership

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Legal presumption of the registrant's ownership of the mark and the exclusive rights to it nationwide for its services and goods

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The ability to bring action related to the mark in federal court

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The ability to obtain registration in other countries

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The ability to file with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prevent the import of foreign goods that infringe on the trademark

How Long Does Trademark Protection Last?

Trademark protection varies, but it typically lasts ten years. It can be renewed indefinitely, with a renewal process and fees. Trademark rights are private, and protection is provided through court orders.

What Kinds of Trademark Can Be Registered?

A trademark can be a combination of the following:

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Words

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Letters

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Numerals

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Drawings

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Symbols

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Three-dimensional shapes

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Packaging

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Sounds 

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Fragrances

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Color shades

How to Register a Trademark for a Company Name

Registering for a trademark is fairly easy. Most businesses can file an application online in under 90 minutes, without the help of a lawyer. 

The easiest way to register is on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's site. This office reviews trademark applications and decides if an application meets the requirements for registration.

Before you begin the online registration, use the Trademark Electronic Search System database to ensure that your trademark isn't similar to a registered trademark within the same category of goods and services. This search will give you text and images of registered trademarks, as well as pending marks and abandoned applications.

If you come across a mark that may conflict with your intended mark, you can check the status of the application and see if the registration is “live.” If it's not, it can't be used to block your application.

A full search will show you any similar marks, not just those that are identical. This search is a little more in-depth than searching for something like a domain name.

If you have a design element for your mark, you need to use a design code for your search. For help searching for a design code, use the Design Search Code Manual, which indexes the categories, divisions, and sections for these codes. 

U.S. trademark protection is granted to the first entity to use a specific mark in their operating region, regardless of whether or not it's registered. A use-based application must include several things:

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A sworn statement that the mark is used for commerce

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The date of the first use of the mark anywhere

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The date of the first use of the mark in commerce

If your mark is already registered with another entity, your registration will be rejected. You may want to proceed with a lawyer in this case. 

Online registration costs between $275 and $325. It requires information about the categories of goods and services associated with the trademark, the date of its first use in commerce, and whether there's a design component for the trademark. 

You should receive a status for your application within six months of filing, based on the information on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site. 

If you need help with the U.S. trademarks registration, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.