You have a great idea for a startup business or new product. You’ve spent time and money brainstorming, gathering the right team, and creating something truly unique and valuable to consumers. Then it occurs to you… “Do I need a business trademark?”
It’s important to understand why you may need a business trademark and the best time to apply. To protect your hard work and creative ideas, you should consider:
Successful startup businesses capture a consumer’s attention quickly with a catchy name, a unique logo, or creative design. Your mark should describe the specific character of your business and set your products or services apart from the competition. Simply using your business name in commerce can provide some common law benefits, but beyond that, do you need a registered trademark for a business name? In short, without federal registration, your protections are limited to the areas you conduct your business.
On the other hand, filing for trademark registration in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) can protect your business name, logo, design, or phrase throughout the United States and can open the door for future foreign brand registration. Remember, your business identity is one of your most valuable assets and you can’t afford to risk losing the right to use your mark because you failed to register with the USPTO.
Trademark ideas for business startups include protecting a name, logo, phrase, or design that identifies your new business. However, certain variables may affect the best time to begin the registration process. For example, will you incorporate your business or form an LLC? Do you already have a product in commerce bearing your business mark? Are you planning to enter the marketplace at a future date?
Depending on your specific circumstances, these benchmarks should help you decide when to get a trademark:
The best time to consider a registered trademark is while brainstorming about logo or branding options. The name or mark you choose at the start of your business is extremely important because it will:
You don’t want to spend time and money creating the perfect mark only to learn you can’t use it because it is already registered to someone else. Instead, conduct a trademark search on your top brand ideas early in the design phase, to ensure they are available for a business trademark.
The USPTO recognizes two types of business trademarks—the “intent-to-use” trademark registration and the “use in commerce” version. To protect a mark you are not yet using in the marketplace you can apply for the intent-to-use trademark while you finalize your plans and eventually place your product into commerce. However, at that time, you will need to convert your registration to a “use in commerce” trademark with an additional expense in order to successfully register your Trademark. If your mark is already being used in the marketplace, you need only file an application for a “use in commerce” registration and avoid the first application.
If you believe your product or service will reach the marketplace within the next three years, and you want to ensure no one else takes your mark in the meantime, consider filing an “intent-to-use” application as soon as possible to give you priority over possible competition. The filing date of this first application will be strong evidence of your bona fide intent to use the trademark should it be challenged in the future. The additional expense for the two-step process will be worth every penny.
Once your business trademark application is successfully registered, you’ll enjoy these additional benefits:
IMPORTANT: If you wait to begin the trademark process you could lose the right to use your brand if another company registers your mark, or a similar mark before you apply. Also, if you launch your business using a mark or logo that is already registered, you could face infringement claims and other legal complications. If you lose, you could be forced to stop production, remove your mark from all products and marketing materials, and start over with a new brand. Any brand recognition you may have earned will be lost and you will suffer the expense of rebranding and changing your labeling, signage, marketing campaigns, and more.
A USPTO business trademark application is a complicated process that requires extensive research and an understanding of appropriate class categories to determine which trademark is best for your situation. The application process usually takes between eight to eighteen months depending on various factors, and your trademark protection will last indefinitely as long as you follow the proper renewal procedures.
You can apply for a business trademark on your own, but if you are denied for any reason, you will lose your application fee and waste precious time and effort. An experienced trademark attorney can guide you through the application process, respond to any Office Actions requested by the USPTO, and help you receive a registered business trademark as efficiently as possible.
Don’t risk making a mistake when it comes to registering a business trademark. The skilled team at the Trademark Lawyer Firm, PLLC has successfully registered more than 6,000 trademarks for our clients and we’re here to help your startup protect one of its most valuable assets—brand reputation. Call us at 888-504-1623 or complete our simple online form to schedule a free 15-minute consultation with a business trademark attorney today.
Suspensions are when your application is on hold. There are various reasons a trademark application can be suspended. However “likelihood of confusion” with prior application(s) filed and submission of foreign application are the most common reasons the USPTO may suspend an application. During a trademark suspension period, your lawyer will provide guidance on the next steps and whether it might be best to file an argument or pursue a coexistence agreement.
A disclaimer usually refers to a statement which indicates that you are not claiming exclusive rights to use the word(s) or a design element in your trademark application. A disclaimer allows for registration without creating a false impression of the registrant’s rights.
A good example of this is disclaiming “café” if your services are for a café.
If a trademark is not eligible for the Principal Registry, there is sometimes an option to register on the Supplemental Registry.
In cases where the USPTO finds the trademark application is merely ornamental, merely descriptive, or primarily geographically descriptive, the USPTO may allow the application to be registered on the Supplemental Registry. However, over time, the mark may acquire distinctiveness and possibly become eligible for the Principal Registry.
Two dates must be specified in a trademark application:
Date of First Use Anywhere: The “anywhere” refers to use in the U.S. or elsewhere. This is the date the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered under the mark. The use must also have been bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.
Date of First Use in Commerce: This is the date when the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered under the mark in interstate or international commerce. The use of the mark must have been bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.
The renewal timeframe for a trademark is between the 9th and 10th year anniversary of the trademark registration, and then in ten-year intervals. It is important to be aware that the USPTO also requires a registrant to provide an affidavit at the 5th and 6th years of ownership stating that the trademark is still being used in commerce. Failure to comply with the renewal timeframes or the affidavit requirements will result in the cancellation of the trademark registration.