Applying for a trademark is the first step to protect a word, phrase, symbol or design from being used by others. A trademark will also protect a combination of any of these items. For example one of the most famous trademarks in the world is the shape of the Coke bottle. A trademark is different from a patent or copyright. A patent protects a process or invention, and copyright protects an original literary or artistic work. Registering a trademark is not a difficult process but there are several steps. First, search the database to ensure a trademark does not already exist. Second, submit an application and fee. Lastly, the application is reviewed, and there is publication for opposition. Once these steps are completed the trademark is issued. The trademark is good for 6 years and will need to be renewed periodically after that date.
It is a good idea to check the USPTO (United States Paten Trademark Office) database to ensure there is not already an existing trademark filed. This can be done electronically through the TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System). The system is available at the USPTO website and is simple to use. After the search is complete the application can be completed and submitted.
The application can be completed online or on a paper form. When completing online it is recommended to review the form before beginning to fill it out. Ensure all information is available and a credit card is available to pay the filing fee. This fee is non-refundable. The specific fee is determined by the type of form being used and the number of classes being filed for. Fees are either $375 per class filed or $325 per class filed. Follow all directions when completing the form. Print a copy of the completed form before submitting. If completing the paper form it must be mailed to the Commissioner for Trademarks, P.O. Box 1451, Alexandria, VA 22313-1451. All information submitted will become part of the public record. This includes contact information, address, and phone number.
Once the application has been received an attorney will be assigned to review the application. This assignment does not happen for three months. The attorney will review to ensure the application meets all legal requirements. If there is a problem with the trademark a letter will be sent to the applicant. The applicant must respond within 6 months to the contents of the letter to keep the trademark process going. If the trademark meets all legal requirements it moves to the next step, a publication for opposition.
This is the process where there is a public notification of the trademark. The public has 30 days to file an opposition. If nothing is filed, the trademark is approved, and registration papers are issued in 8 – 12 weeks. If there is an opposition filed, the USPTO reviews the opposition and makes a decision.
Filing for a trademark is an expensive and long process. The entire process can take over a year to complete.