Many small businesses don’t bother to go through the process of trademarking their name, logo or symbol. A trademark is simply “a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others.” A business can have a common law trademark simply by using the name or logo in commerce, but there are limits to those rights. That’s why some companies go further and decide to register their trademarks. Before making a decision about registering, there are several things to consider:

  1. Why should I register a trademark? Registering is not necessary, but does provide important advantages especially in certain types of circumstances. For example, if you have a small local business, registering may not be that important. However, nationwide or online businesses may want to ensure they have exclusive use of their name and can sue others for infringement. Registering your trademark provides a legal presumption of your ownership and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in association with the goods/services set forth in your registration. Registration is also important because it can help you protect your domain name from cybersquatters – those who try to register a website domain that is similar to your trademark to take advantage of your well-known name.

2. How can I pick a trademark that will be approved for registration? If you’re considering getting a trademark for your business, product or service, you should prescreen your options to reduce the risk of considering ones that are not likely to be available for registration. At a minimum, check against the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark database and do a Google search. In some cases, you may also want to search global and specialty databases, such as for the European Union, WIPO Madrid Protocol, CIPO (Canada) Trademark Search and others. In addition, you should realize that not every name can be registered. Your trademark must be sufficiently distinctive. Descriptive terms typically can’t be registered. Ideally, you should consult an experienced attorney to evaluate your likelihood of success before you go through the application process.

3. How do I file a trademark application? You can file online using the USPTO Trademark Electronic Application System. The USPTO reviews trademark applications and determines whether an applicant meets the requirements for federal registration. If you want to file the application yourself, the USPTO provides online guidance. A qualified attorney can also help guide you through the process and assist you with preparing the necessary paperwork.

To learn more, read our blog about the Benefits of Registering a Trademark or Service Mark.

Contact us if you have any questions regarding trademark registration.