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How to Trademark a Name

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Man Applying to Trademark a Name

Trademarking Business Assets

Most people understand that in order to protect certain aspects of their business, like a name, symbol, or logo, they need a trademark.  A trademark prevents others from using and profiting from the likeness of your business.  Several steps are involved in getting a trademark, but the protection provided is well worth the effort.

The First Trademark Steps

One of the first steps that you need to take before getting a trademark is to decide on the name that you will be using.  This needs to be the name associated with your business.  You cannot trademark your own personal name unless that is also the name of your business.   This is due to a requirement set by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that in order to qualify fora trademark the name must be used “in commerce.”

The phrase “in commerce” is business jargon basically meaning that the name must be used in association with selling goods or services.  Once you have decided on a name, you need to perform some research to make sure the name you selected is available.  Not only does the name you selected need to be available, but it cannot be too similar to a name that is already trademarked in the same line of business.

You should start your research by searching the USPTO’s database.  This will allow you to determine whether any trademarks already exist for the name that you would like to secure.  Additionally, it is a good idea to expand your search to state directories and even a general internet search.  Even though a name may not have a trade mark on it, you could still run into issues if a business already exists with the same name.

What Makes a Good Name?

According to the USPTO, the name must already be in use in commerce or you must intend to use it very soon.  The name must also be distinctive, so you likely would not be granted a trademark for something like “Hot Pizza” or“John.”  In some cases, a more generic name can qualify if it is used outside of its normal meaning.

For instance, “Apple” is a very generic name that would very likely not be granted a trademark for a business selling fruit.  However, “Apple” is a unique name when describing a technology company.  This helps show the reason that you are also required to describe the types of good sand services the business provides when filing an application for a trademark.

Trademark Application Process

Once you have decided on a name and performed the necessary research to determine the name is available, then it is time to start the application process.  The initial application process is simple and straightforward.  You can complete the application online through the USPTO’s electronic application system.

You will need to provide several pieces of information in your application.  This includes the name you wish to trademark, the name and address of the trademark’s owner, the good sand services that the name will be associated with, and even an example of the name being used in commerce.  As with most applications, there is also a filing fee required as part of the process.

Once the application has been submitted, the USPTO will examine the application and inform you if there are any issues.  The USPTO will also publish notice of the application and allow others a chance to challenge the issuance of the trademark.  If issues arise, you’ll need to address those before the trademark is issued.  Once issued, you can begin using your trademarked name and enforce the prohibition on anyone else using it.

How to Trademark Phrases

Nearly everyone has heard Nike’s phrase “Just Do It,” but how do you go about getting a phrase trademarked to prevent others from using it?  First, just like with a name, the phrase must be used in commerce. Secondly, it must be unique or used in such a way that it is not too generic.  Lastly, you can file an application with the USPTO to apply for a trademark on the phrase.

How to Trademark Logos and Symbols

The process to trademark a logo or symbol is also very similar to that of a name.  You need to first ensure that your logo or symbol is unique and that it is not already in use by another company.  This is a very important step when choosing a company logo so that you do not invest money into a logo that is already in use.

Once your logo has been created, you can file your application with the USPTO.  As with a name, the USPTO will review the application and then publish notice for others to review.  If there are no issues or objections, the trademark will be granted. It should be noted that this can be quite a length process, often taking at least 6 months to complete.

Trademark Cost

The cost to get a trademark can vary depending upon whether you need legal assistance and whether issues arise during the review process.  The basic application fee ranges from $250-$350.  If you have a very straightforward application and no issues arise, this could end up being your total cost.  However, if complex issues arise and you require legal assistance in clearing those issues, the cost to obtain your trademark could increase greatly.

Conclusion

There are several steps to obtaining a trademark on a name,phrase, or logo, but the protection that it can provide your business against misuse is huge.  The process is a lengthy one, often taking 6 months or more from start to finish.  The application fee is relatively low, but the overall cost can quickly increase if legal assistance is required.  Overall, you must decide whether obtaining the trademark if worth the effort required.

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