How to Trademark a Name and Why It Matters

How to trademark a name

In business, as in life, your name is all you've got. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but it's not entirely untrue. Your name, symbol, and logo are central to who your business is. Your name, more than anything. It's up to you to protect it.

On that note, have you ever wondered how to trademark a name? For such an important step in your business plan, you really should be prepared.

Let's take a closer look at registering to protect your precious name, shall we?

The Why

Trademarks are distinct from patents or copyrights, in that they are words, phrases or symbols that represent a brand. They do not have a maximum validity period, and, so long as you continue to trade under the trademark and renew them, can actually last forever.

So, why get one?

As we mentioned, the best reason is that your brand has value to you. The Internet is full of stories of business owners who've had their names stolen and realized they weren't trademarked, to begin with.

This can be devastating to a new business, and much more so to an established operation. Losing clients to another business who "got there first" can mean huge losses, and, honestly, nobody wants to have to start over again at the beginning.

Something important to consider is that trademark enforcement is a personal responsibility. As the USPTO website notes, being registered is different from being legally permitted to use a trademark.

Once you've learned how to trademark a name, it will be up to you to be vigilant against people who want to use it without your permission. That means knowing your rights as a trademark holder and being ready to take legal action to protect them.

So, now that we've covered your motivations, it's time to look at how to trademark a name.

The How

Once you've decided to take advantage of the benefits of trademarking your business name or logo, it's time to get to work.

Before you do anything, you're going to want to make sure your trademark is actually available. Trademark search services are a good way to make sure you're not trying to register something that already exists. 

The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) is an online tool for doing exactly this. It contains a record of active and inactive trademarks registered in the United States, as well as current applications. It's a good resource for clearing your trademark, as it contains a complete record of filed and registered US trademarks. It's also automatically updated by the USPTO, making it current, as well.

Why is this important to you? So that you can avoid what's known as the "likelihood of confusion". USPTO attorneys examine new applications for similarities to existing trademarks. They also check whether these trademarks are being used for similar products. They base their decisions on whether one product or service could be mistaken for another using this information.

Our trademark search service helps to check your trademark doesn't already exist. This report includes a search of TESS and other databases for identical or similar trademarks.  It also includes an assessment of your application and suggestions for improvements.

From here, the trademark registration can begin. You'll choose the type of mark you want for your name, specify the goods or services your name will apply to, and select a filing basis. At this point, if you haven't already, you may want to consider bringing a trademark attorney on, to help speed things along and help ensure you make the right choices.

This could be intimidating to somebody who's never done it before. Attorney fees don't have to be astronomical, though. Try to find a group that offers flat rates for work done, rather than per hour. Remember that this is a value service and that the extra money is for saving you time and potential errors in applying.

Whichever route you choose, attorney or no, it's time to start applying.

So, how to trademark a name? First, you've got to speak to the right people.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) processes federal trademark registrations. They are your first and last stop in applying for a trademark.

Let's take a closer look at the actual application process:

The application form is available as a PDF, via the USPTO website, and can be filled in digitally or printed out and mailed. The application fee ranges from $225 to $400, depending on the regulations on the class of goods or service you file for.

Your filing basis

When filing a federal trademark, one of the first things you'll need to specify is the basis for filing. In the US, you're legally allowed to apply for a trademark under very specific situations, outlined in the US Trademark Act. These bases affect which rights you'll be given as the trademark holder, and what your role will be in maintaining your trademark.

These bases cover scenarios where you're using your trademark for the first time, or are already operating under it, you have an application or established registration filed in another country.

You can combine more than one filing basis under a single application, depending on the layout of your trademark. If your application is for a name that will be used differently in two different countries, for instance, you can register using two bases. 

  • A USPTO trademark attorney will review your application, next. If you don't get a response from the USPTO immediately during this period, don't worry too much. The registration office can take anywhere up to several months to respond to an application. You will receive status updates as the office proceeds with it.

    In the meanwhile, you're going to need to be patient.

  • Once you do get a response, though, it's time to get to work. There is a six-month deadline to respond to any correspondence from the USPTO. It's recommended that you respond as quickly as possible, to avoid complications. 

  • Once the USPTO has everything they need from you, your application will be published in the national gazette. This is to give other businesses a chance to contest it if they have similar or identical trademarks. 

  • Once your trademark publication goes uncontested, and you have filed a statement of use to indicate you've begun using the mark in commerce, you'll be in the home stretch for registration. Provided there are no issues and you've complied with the USPTO's requests, your registration will be approved within approximately two months.

A note on Internet trademarks: website domains can be registered as a trademark, as well as through a domain name register. Your domain and your trademark are separate entities. Register the domain as a trademark, and that trademark is yours. To keep it going as a website, you'll need to keep the domain renewed with the registrar. But, like we said, if the domain name registration goes unpaid, the trademark stays yours.

How to trademark a name? Now you know!

It's important to protect your business image. And there's nothing more central to your image than your name.

Visit us, for the ins and outs on how to trademark a name for your business, today.