Securing a Trademark for Your Company Name
When you start a business, there are several things you must do. First, you need to come up with a business plan that will set you on a path to success. Then you will likely have to secure financing to get your operation up and running. You may need to hire employees and lease office space, or secure a warehouse facility for manufacturing. But even though these components are important, you are probably a lot more excited about coming up with a name and a logo for your company. So why wouldn’t you want to protect them from exploitation by others? By simply securing a trademark, you can legally ensure that your intellectual property is safe from theft. Here’s how to do it.
1. Make your mark. In order to be eligible for Federal trademark registration, you must first create a mark of commerce. This is a symbol, word, or words (your name and logo) intended for use in commerce (selling goods or services for profit) as a representation of your company. You have claim to a trademark through the legitimate use of this mark (or marks), but you may also register a mark of commerce that you intend to use (but have not yet begun using). Although you don’t necessarily have to receive Federal registration in order to hold a trademark, it is the only way to take legal ownership of your name and/or logo.
2. Conduct a search. Unfortunately, you cannot register for a trademark that is already taken, so it behooves you to do a search for other possible users before you go ahead and put the name on your building. You can search online for free via the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), which allows you to sift through not only names, but also look for design elements to ensure that your logo is truly one of a kind (and you won’t have anyone suing you for infringing on their trademark down the road).
3. Fill out an application for registration. Once you have determined that no one else is using your intended trademark, you may apply for registration. If you are already using your mark, you must write out a declaration of use that includes the name and/or logo you intend to trademark (and a sample of said trademark in use), as well as the date it was first used in commerce, and the signature of the applicant (you). You can visit the website for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to find a template for a proper declaration.
4. File the application. The application for trademark registration can most easily be filed online via the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). You can either submit your declaration of use or fill out a standard form provided for those who are not yet using their intended trademark. Once the form is completed you simply submit it and pay the registration fee by credit card. You may also file a hard copy by mail, although the process will take longer.
5. Keep an eye out. Once you have secured trademark registration, you need to remain vigilant in order to ensure that no one else is able to profit from your brand name or image. If you should find someone else using your trademark without your consent, you have every right to sue them for trademark infringement.
Breana Orland writes for Borghese Legal, a Las Vegas Business Attorney with a focus on intellectual property and transactional law.