Building a great brand is one of the keys to developing a successful business. Many elements of a brand, including the company name, logo, or slogan, can be protected with a trademark. Registering your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will allow you to stop competitors from using your brand without permission or confusing your customers with a copycat brand. Trademark registration is particularly important if you are operating in multiple states or plan to do so in the future. While some people try to go it alone and file an application without a lawyer, an experienced trademark lawyer can often be the difference between an application being denied or approved. One of Legal Hero’s trademark lawyers can guide you through the trademark process and help you protect the key elements of your brand.
Register a Trademark
Registering your trademark is one of the most important ways to protect your brand. Before registering your trademark, you need to confirm that what you want to register is eligible for trademark protection and that it has not already been trademarked by someone else. Taking these two steps will increase the chances of a successful application and avoid wasting time and money on an application likely to be rejected. A trademark lawyer can help you with both of these steps, and then prepare the application for you.
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What is the process for registering a trademark?
The trademark registration process consists of five steps:
Choosing the format for your trademark: this might be (a) a standard character format like a business name; (b) a design format, such as a logo; or (c) an audio trademark such as a jingle.
Determining which industry your trademark will apply to: Ever wonder why there are lots of companies with registered marks for United, such as United Airlines and UnitedHealthcare? This is because trademarks are industry specific, so you need to determine in which industry your trademark will provide protection.
Deciding which goods/services your trademark will apply to: you want to cover all the goods/services that the mark will apply to, but without being too broad, which could cause the USPTO to reject your application.
Conducting a search for conflicting trademarks: see below for more information on trademark searches.
Preparing and filing a trademark application with the USPTO: the USPTO's review process generally takes 13-18 months, but if your application is approved, the trademark will be effective as of the date the application was filed.
What are trademark searches?
A properly conducted trademark search will identify any conflicting trademarks that could prevent you from registering your trademark. If there is a conflict, it is better to learn about it upfront and save yourself the time and expense of filing an application that will be rejected. There are different types of trademark searches and the right one for you will depend upon a number of factors. While the standard knock-out search is a good option in most cases, it sometimes makes sense to conduct a more in-depth search. A trademark lawyer can help you determine which search option is right for you and then help you understand the search results.
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What are USPTO “office actions”?
An office action is a document sent by the USPTO when there is a problem with a trademark application. If you do not respond to an office action within six months, your application will be abandoned. There are two types of offices actions: procedural and substantive.
Receiving a procedural office action means that your application has a technical error, such as a missing piece of information. The required response generally just consists of providing the missing information.
A substantive office action, on the other hand, means that the USPTO has identified a basis for potentially denying your application, often because there is a "likelihood of confusion" with an existing trademark. In this case, the response will be more complex and require convincing the USPTO that there really is no issue and that the application should be accepted.
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