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Creating and protecting a trademark for your business is a key part of its formation and inception. Trademarks help define your business, tie everything together, and let people know what you do. Without a trademark, you risk your name being copied or stolen without permission. So, if you’re starting a business it’s time to come up with a name and a trademark. If this is all new to you, you’re in the right place, as we are going to discuss everything you need to know about trademarks before getting one yourself. This handy guide will arm you with everything you need to know and do concerning your first business trademark.
What Is A Trademark?
A trademark is an identifier of your business. It could be a word, phrase, design, symbol, or even sound that you use to identify your business. This phrase, logo, or packaging is something that you feel is unique to your brand and important in separating your business from other similar companies. Trademarks are important because they stop other businesses from using names, sounds, shapes, or sounds that are similar to yours. This helps to avoid any confusion on the part of the consumer. They will not get your product mixed up with a similar brand if you have trademarked it effectively.
Naming Your Company and “Dead” Trademarks
It is very important to search other business names before even getting to the stage of trademarking. You don’t want to launch a business only to find out that someone else has trademarked the exact name you want. To do this, search for your name using an online database of business and LLC names. If your chosen name seems free, then you can crack on and register it. Registering your business does give you some state protection – meaning no one else can copy your name – but it does not protect you on a national or international level.
Things get more confusing when there have previously been companies or trademarks with your chosen name or phrase. A trademark over 10 years old that has not been used or renewed is considered “dead” or unclaimed. In this case, registering dead trademarks is a possibility. Now, it is very important to search the market to ensure that the trademark is not still being used. Even if it lays unclaimed and appears free to register, it could still be being used. This would mean that you would not be able to register it, even though the previous owner hasn’t re-registered properly. The last thing you want is a court battle over a trademark!
How To Register One
It couldn’t be much easier to register a trademark. As long as you have sufficiently checked whether the trademark is free to use and registerable, it’s a simple job. If you have completed all your checks and are already using the phrase, logo, or name in your business, you just need to head to the US Patent and Trademark Office’s website. From there, it’s a few simple forms and a flat fee depending on which trademark class you are applying for. If you do need to debate a dead or unused trademark, you’ll have to file an ‘intent to use’ application. This is also relatively straightforward but may take some time to come back after being thoroughly checked by USPTO.
There is a huge selection of different “classes” of goods or services that the USPTO will register a trademark for. In fact, there are 45 classes. It is very important that you select the right class or classes for your business, as you will only be protected in those classes. For example, if you make food and merchandise you may need to register your trademark in both food and shirts/apparel categories. If you are unsure, a trademark lawyer will be able to advise you on which categories to apply for.
Monitoring and Enforcement
One final thing to consider is the protection trademarks give you, and how to ensure that is enforced. Believe it or not, the USPTO just registers and looks after the paperwork side of things. They don’t actively check that trademarks are being adhered to/not copied. This, in fact, is your job. You – or your colleagues, lawyers, or friends – are the ones who must stay on the lookout for trademark breaches. Then, use a legal team to decide the next best steps, usually a cease and desist letter is the first move.
This quick guide should give you confidence that you are ready to register a trademark for your business. If you have any concerns, a lawyer or member of USPTO can advise you. Good luck with your new business.