U.S. registered trademarks give mark holders important protections for their products so that other parties can't infringe on their rights for financial gain. Once you hold a trademark, you can use it in association with goods that you provide, which will build up trust and goodwill in your brand.

How to Register a Trademark

Anyone who wants to register a trademark applies to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO reviews applications and then makes a decision to register a trademark if the mark meets specific requirements. Trademark holders have rights to their registered mark. You have several advantages when you own a trademark: 

  • Public notice that you are the owner. 
  • Exclusive rights to use your mark in connection with the goods or services it's associated with. 
  • The legal right to bring an action against an infringing party. 
  • You can use your U.S. registration to get registration in other countries. 
  • Your registration can be used to prevent the importation of foreign products that infringe on your trademark.

When you claim rights to a mark, you can use the symbol "TM" (trademark) or "SM" (service mark) so that third parties are aware of your ownership claim. You can use either symbol whether or not you've applied for a mark with the USPTO. However, you cannot use the symbol designating federal registration, the "®" symbol, until your mark is actually registered with the USPTO. You can't use it even while your application is pending.

Once your mark is registered, you can only use it for the goods or services that it's registered for. Most applicants in the U.S. plan to use their mark in the course of commerce. This includes interstate commerce as well as commerce between foreign countries and the U.S.

You should conduct a trademark search before applying to make sure no one else has claim to your mark. If your mark contains a design element, you'll need a design code to search for the same or similar marks. You can search for free using the trademark search database, also known as TESS.

You can file an application online using the TEAS system, or Trademark Electronic Application System. You'll be able to submit it directly to the USPTO.

Registering a Trademark for a Company Name

It's easy to register a trademark for a company name. It may take less than 90 minutes to file online, and many people don't need a lawyer to do this. The easiest way to register is to visit the USPTO website.

Be sure to conduct a trademark search first before registering, using TESS. You need to check if another entity has registered the same or similar mark that you wish to use for your goods or services in the same category.

Protection for a mark is typically given to the first party who uses it in the area it conducts business. However, if the mark is registered by another entity, even if you used it first, your application will be rejected. You might then need to hire a lawyer if you want to proceed with using that mark.

Registering for a trademark online costs anywhere from $275 to $325. You'll have to provide the following information when you apply: 

  • The category of services or goods your mark is used for  
  • The initial date of the mark's use in commerce 
  • Any design component in your mark

If you run an online business, you should probably not include your web extension as part of the mark registration (i.e., .com or .net) unless you plan to register a mark with the extension as well as without it.

You'll probably get a decision for your application six months or so after filing. One of the reasons applications are rejected is a close similarity to an existing registered mark, as marks that are “confusingly similar” are likely to confuse the average consumer as to their source.

If you feel you have a product that's valuable enough to protect, it's important to find out as much as you can about the trademark process. Not only do you want to avoid the risk of infringing on someone else's mark, you want to get protection for your creation before another party does.

If you need help with trademark 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.