October 9, 2023
What is it? What are the benefits? What can I trademark?
Article courtesy 1 Bold Step
Establishing a unique identity for your brand is crucial for success. One powerful tool that can help you achieve this is a trademark. But what exactly is a trademark and what are the benefits of obtaining one? What can be trademarked in the first place?
In this blog post, we will explore the answers to these questions and provide valuable insights into the world of trademarks.
What is a trademark?
There is no better way to start this blog than to review the basics, what is a trademark? According to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark includes any word, name, symbol, divide, or any combination, to be used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one seller or provider from others.
What can be trademarked?
There are several items that can be trademarked including a:
- Business name
- Product name
- Symbol or design
- Sound or soundscape
- Product package
What are the benefits of a trademark?
If you’re thinking about adding a trademark to your mix, here are some of the top benefits that you’d experience:
- You own it! You have legal ownership and exclusive rights to use the trademark in the country where the goods or services are registered.
- Marks similar to yours can not be trademarked.
- Legal action can be taken if your trademark is used by any other business or person.
- Incontestable status after five years of registration.
- Trademarks can be sold.
- Provides identity.
- Builds trust and loyalty.
- After existing for five years, the registration can become incontestable.
Why do I need a trademark?
Plain and simple, a trademark protects your brand name and/or product — but life isn’t always plain and simple, is it?
With trademarks, you will be providing an identity to your brand name and/or product, which will help you stand out from the competition. When you receive a trademark, there is national notice of ownership, which prevents others from claiming a mark that is similar to yours. It also acts as a safeguard against other trademarks that may be similar and confuse customers. Essentially, your trademark will be tangible property, which makes it valuable.
Another big reason to trademark is to prevent imported goods from trying to be like yours. International companies export their goods to the United States, but if you have a federally registered trademark, these companies cannot use your trademark when selling their goods.
Lastly, when you have a federally registered trademark, it will be easier to expand your business into other countries too.
Difference between a trademark, a patent, and a copyright?
While a patent is intended to protect new inventions, processes or scientific creations, a trademark is meant to protect logos, brands, and slogans. A copyright on the other hand, protects original works of authorship, such as a novel, a movie, or a sound recording.
Below are a few examples to help you differentiate between a trademark, a patent and a copyright.
- Starbucks’ mermaid logo
- McDonald’s golden arches
- Apple’s partially eaten apple logo
- The telephone, by Alexander Graham Bell
- The airplane, by the Wright brothers
- The lightbulb, by Thomas Edison
- The game “Minecraft” created by Mojang Studios
- J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series
- Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
Do trademarks ever expire?
Trademarks do not expire, as long as the owner continues to use the trademark. While patents and copyrights can expire, that is not something to worry about with trademarks. When the trademark is granted, the owner must continue to use the trademark in commerce, in which case, it will not expire.
How do I register for a trademark?
The registration of a trademark can seem like a daunting task, but there are steps you can take to get your trademark approved. The USPTO has helpful information on how to successfully file for a trademark, so here is the rundown.
You first have to decide, is a trademark right for me?
If you are trying to register for protection on an invention, a trademark isn’t right for you, that would be a patent. On the other hand, if applying to protect an original artistic or literary work, you would need a copyright and not a trademark. If you are looking to protect a word, phrase, symbol or design that makes your goods or services unique, then a trademark is the right option for you.
Get ready to apply
Once you deem that a trademark is right for you, you must then select a mark. This is a crucial part of the process. The symbol you choose will be used to identify your good or service and it will be what customers associate with you and your products. But not every mark can be registered. Also, not every mark can be legally protectable.
Determine mark format
You must determine if your mark will be a standard character mark, a design mark or a sound mark. Your application must include a clear drawing or depiction of the trademark you are applying for.
Here are the requirements for standard character drawings (from USPTO):
- Show text only (no graphics, logos, or designs; no color or stylization).
- Display the trademark in black on a white background.
- Show all letters and words in Latin characters (A-Z).
- Show all numerals in Roman (VII, IX) and/or Arabic (0-9) numerals.
- Include only common punctuation (colon, dashes) and diacritical marks (accents, tildes).
- Identify the goods and/or services
You must identify clearly the precise goods and/or services to which the mark will be applied to.
Searching for others
This step is crucial and can save you a lot of time and money in the long run!
Always make sure to search for similar trademarks in the USPTO database before filing. One of the most common reasons the USPTO rejects trademark applications is that the applied-for trademark is already taken or it is too similar to an already registered trademark.
Conducting a search in the USPTO database, Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) will show you federally registered and applied-for trademarks.
Prepare and submit the application
- First, you must create an account with the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) and then login.
- File the application online through TEAS.
- Monitor application status.
- Make sure to stay up to date on your address and email address.
- Work with the assigned USPTO examining attorney
- After submitting your application, the USPTO will determine whether you have met the minimum requirements. Then an application serial number will be assigned and the application moved forward to an examining attorney. The examining attorney will review the application to determine whether or not it complies with the rules and statuses. This may take months.
- Then, the USPTO will issue a letter, also known as, office action
- You are then expected to respond in a timely manner (within three months). There are exceptions though, the USPTO has been known to grant a three-month extension, for a fee.
USPTO publishes your mark!
If there aren’t any objections from the examining attorney, then you will have your mark approved. The USPTO will then send you a notice of publication and that will state the publication date.
What makes a strong trademark?
Every trademark is different and not all of these guidelines will apply to each and every trademark. But in general, here are a few guidelines for creating a strong trademark.
Trademarks that are powerful and really stand out are distinct. This means that they are unique and not descriptive of the goods or services represented. Think Apple or Dove. Apple is not descriptive of the goods or services offered by the company.
Strong trademarks are almost always unique and should be considered to be original. It will do you no good to trademark something that is very similar to another trademark. Being unique is always the best route when deciding what mark to use.
Strong trademarks will not directly describe the product or service represented. Descriptive terms or common words are considered weaker most of the time. There is not proven distinctiveness when using common words or terms.
Let’s not skip over this one! Registering your trademark will instantly make it stronger and can provide substantial benefits once approved. This includes legal protection and ownership of the trademark, which will help stop infringement.
Are trademarks the right fit for your business?
To conclude, a trademark contains any word, name, symbol, divide or any combination, to be used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one seller or provider from others. Trademarks can be a logo, business name, product name, symbol or design, sound or soundscape, product package, word or phrase.
While there are many benefits for having a trademark, the main benefits are that you own it, similar marks can’t be trademarked, trademarks can be sold, they provide identity and legal action can be taken if your trademark is being used by any other business or individual. Trademarks do not expire, as long as you continue to use it.
Once your trademark is registered, you will receive consistent and continuous use of the trademark, it will also include significant benefits and legal protection. A trademark protects your goods or services and is used to safeguard against other trademarks that can be similar to yours.