Business Basics started out as a way to educate would-be and current entrepreneurs on the basics of running a business, and has slowly morphed into a place where we can try to tackle some of the most common questions we get about the ins-and-outs of business ownership. But, after looking through a few old posts, we were surprised we hadn’t delved into a very, very important part of running a business – protecting your intellectual property! To help rectify this, here is the first post in a series looking at IP protection. This week we are going to look at the trademark.
What, exactly, does a trademark do?
A trademark is typically a name, phrase, logo, design, or symbol that is used to denote the source of a product or service. By registering a trademark with the USPTO, you are asking for the right to own, use, and license that mark at the federal level. Trademarks actually go all the way back to ancient roman treatises between blacksmiths wanting the right to mark the armor they produced, and over the centuries the trademark has continued to be an integral part of business’s brand. While using a particular mark in the open marketplace does grant you some common law protection, that protection is limited compared to the protection received after registering with the USPTO.
How do you register a trademark?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office handles trademarks, so the first step after you know exactly what you want to register is to head over to that site and start searching for marks that could be close to your own. You should also read the requirements for registering a trademark very, very carefully – your application probably won’t be reviewed until three months after you first file it, and the last thing you want is to be rejected because of a silly mistake. MyCorp is also happy to help you search the USPTO database and prepare your application.
Can (and should) you trademark your business’s name?
Businesses must register their names with the Secretary of State, whose office checks the existing database of names and determines whether or not the business can actually use that particular name. But a state-level registration is not the same as registering your name with the USPTO. If granted the rights to a name, you can enforce those rights at the state and federal level. However, registering with the USPTO is a time-consuming process. It can take up to six months for the review to finish, and afterwards you still have to wait for thirty-days so that other people can oppose your right to that mark if they wish to. Still, despite the hassle, it is a good idea to trademark your business name if you ever aspire to do business outside of your home state.
Registering a trademark for your logo or your business’s name should be done fairly early on. As we said before, using a particular logo or your business’s name in the open market already does grant common law trademark rights, which can be enforced at the state, and occasionally federal, level. But by registering a mark with the USPTO, you are given a much higher degree of protection, and it is easier to defend your rights to that mark if it is infringed on.
If you have any questions about trademarks or trademark protection, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or give us a call at 1(877) 692-6772 – we’re happy to answer any questions you might have!