Trademarks and copyrights help protect essential parts of your brand. These limit the imitability of your business such as its name, logo, or software you develop.
Trademarks are words, symbols, and phrases that help uniquely identify your business and demonstrate how different they are from competitors. Copyrights, on the other hand, protect all original works of authorship such as books, poetry, music, movies, scripts, etc. Patents help safeguard your unique designs or inventions. If you’re the one creating and designing your own products, you should look into getting a patent.
Although many business owners are eager to trademark their deliverables, it’s important to know what type of trademark is the right one for you.
Before filling out the application, it’s good to know which one is the right one for you.
Filing electronically saves you money since the USPTO charges the highest applicable filing fee for all paper applications. Visit the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) site at http://www.uspto.gov/teas to register your trademark.
How do you successfully trademark your business’ name?
Start by combing through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)’s TESS database to see if your trademark idea is already taken. You want to ensure that your potential trademark follows this criteria:
Trademarking your business’ name will cost around $225-$400. This is largely dependent on which type of application you’re attempting to use. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has three different fee levels. But a rule of thumb is that the cheaper the fee, the more work you’ll need to do upfront.
The USPTO starts their review process a few months after the application is submitted. The average wait time for a trademark is around 4-6 months.
If the USPTO finds any issues regarding your application, you will likely need to respond to any additional information requests. Which can add up to another 6 months in wait times. Next, you should try to get your trademark published in their official newsletter. This can take up to three months.
Lastly, the USPTO will issue you the certificate of registration, which completes the process. This usually takes around 2-3 months to complete. This means that from start to finish it can take between 11-18 months.
A trademark registered with the USPTO lasts for 10 years.
However, the trademark could become void if you’re unable to show that the trademark is still being used within 6 years of the registration date. Basically, if you’re able to prove that you’ve used that trademark for the first 6 years of its existence, then you will be able to take advantage of the full 10 year time period.
After that, you can renew the registration indefinitely for additional 10 year periods using a Section 9 Declaration with the USPTO.
If you don’t renew your registration, it doesn’t void all rights to the mark, but you will lose all the special benefits of federal registration.
Online applications for trademarks have non-refundable fees of $225-$400. Paper applications cost $600. If your mark is used for multiple classes of goods and services, you have to pay the filing fee for each class.
Some people also seek legal counsel when they’re registering a trademark. This can be helpful if you’re truly lost, but it can cost you upwards of $125/hour.
To renew your trademark, which you’ll have to do every 10 years, you’ll have to pay $300 for electronic filing, while a paper application will cost $400.
Yes, two businesses can indeed have the same name as long as they’re offering sufficiently different goods and services.
If someone is using your trademark it doesn’t necessarily mean that an infringement has taken place. It can only be considered trademark infringement if consumers can become confused by the double usage of the trademark and if it's being used on competing goods and services.
Even then, the location of your business matters. If the other business using your trademark is in Miami, FL and your shop is in Dallas, TX, then it isn’t considered an infringement because the Miami customers will likely never encounter the Dallas store. So there wouldn’t be any confusion.
Your logo is one of the most important aspects of your branding and business. Having a logo allows your customers to recognize and distinguish you from your competitors. You don’t actually have to go through the whole process of trademarking your logo. If you’re using it for commercial purposes, then your company automatically has a common law trademark on that logo.
Common law trademark is applied automatically. Once a company uses its logo to help differentiate its business, they have trademark rights, although not as many as those with a federal trademark.
The USPTO has a tool called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) in which you can search for a trademark by name or by design code. In order to be able to search via the design code method you’ll have to use the Design Search Code Manual, but be warned because the system works very easily with direct matches, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any logos that are overly similar (but not exactly the same). =
In order to make sure there aren’t any overly similar logos, you’ll have to conduct research using different spelling variations, and design features. A logo can also be registered at a state level. In order to research these, you can take a look at your local secretary of state website. In some cases, trademark protection can exist under common law.
The first step would be to make sure that your mark is available to be registered. You can check for eligibility at the USPTO’s website. You also have to classify the mark format as a stylized/design mark, standard character mark, or a sound mark. You also need to clearly identify what goods or services the mark will be used for. Once you’re done with that, search the USPTO website to make sure your mark isn’t already claimed. The final thing to determine before applying is your filing basis.
The next step is to prepare and submit your application. After the USPTO has determined that you’ve met the minimum filing requirements, you’ll work with the assigned USPTO examining attorney. This attorney will contact you if you have to make minor corrections to the mark. Finally, you’ll receive approval or denial of your application. If you are approved, remember that you’ll have to maintain your registration to prevent it from expiring. The trademark application process can be complex and confusing—it is recommended that you consult with a trademark attorney to help you through the process.
Trademarking a phrase is very similar to trademarking a product name. If you have a phrase that is registrable, the first step to getting it approved is to conduct a trademark phrase search. Use the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System to locate phrases identical or similar to yours. If you find no matches, apply for a trademark online using the Trademark Electronic Application System and pay the application fee. Your application must specify whether the phrase is currently in use or intended to be used, whether you are registering your phrase in special or standard character format, and the type of goods and services your mark is used for. If you are registering your phrase as a special character, you’ll need to include a picture or drawing.
Once your application has been submitted, make sure that you promptly respond to any USPTO correspondence, like office actions. It might take months for your registration to be approved, provided there are no objections or problems. Once the phrase is registered, you’ll need to maintain your registration by filing periodic documents with the USPTO.
Decide if you Need a Copyright
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, copyrights protect original works of authorship. If an individual registers their copyright with a public record of their work, nobody will be able to infringe on your claim. Should they attempt to, you will be able to sue them for copyright infringement.
Copyrights are long-lasting for both creators and anonymous individuals. For those directly credited for creating original works, their copyright protection will last for the rest of their life, plus 70 years after death. If the original works were created anonymously, or under a pseudonym, then the works are protected 95 years from the date of publication. They may also be protected for 120 years from the date of creation as well.
Review the Copyright Database
So you want to apply for a copyright. First, you will need to conduct a search through the copyright database. This will ensure that you do not accidentally infringe on any existing registered work. If your work turns out to be unique, all you need to do is file an electronic application, send in a copy of the work you want to register, and pay a fee.
If you have created an invention that has a “useful” purpose and the ability to operate, then you’ll need to file for a patent.
Patents require a nonprovisional application filed to the Director of the USPTO. Since these are original inventions, their applications are tailored to those specific needs and include:
- a written document with a specific description
- a formal declaration that you are the original inventor of the creation
- drawings along with fees for filing, search, and examination
Keep in mind that the duration of protection may vary depending on the type of patent that your invention is granted, as not all patents are created the same. A utility patent, for instance, lasts for 20 years, while a design patent will last for 14 years.
The protection of your unique work is key, so once you know which one you need, it’s time to begin the paperwork process to make sure you can protect it for your business.