Protecting your trademark can pay dividends. Not only is it a valuable property asset, but it’s also your brand and your reputation. The reputation you’ve established is associated with these different brand elements: your name, logo, and tagline. It is also the reason why people buy from you. It’s important to take steps to protect these crucial company assets.
With trademarks, there are many legal requirements, strict time deadlines, and the filing fees are not refunded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) if you mess up. That’s why you should use an attorney. An attorney will do the research to make sure the mark isn't already taken, ensure the filing gets accepted by the Office and provide sound legal advice throughout the entire process.
The process can be complex and lengthy. You are likely focused on developing your company and are probably working full-time in that capacity. Taking on this task yourself can limit your ability to focus on your business.
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What is a service mark?
A trademark is essentially a brand name. It’s a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that distinguishes the source of goods of one party from another. A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used (or intended to be used) in commerce to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from the services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services.
At what point should a company register a trademark?
It depends on a myriad of factors, but a lot of businesses will trademark and incorporate simultaneously. It’s advisable to trademark at least your name and logo in order to prevent others from ripping off your company and be provided a legal recourse if this ever happens.
Is my trademark protected even if I don’t register it with the USPTO?
Although common law trademark rights exist, it takes a lot more time and effort to prove your rights. Also, common law rights only extend to the geographic area your business is in, rather than being protected throughout the entire country if you register it with the USPTO.
When does the USPTO deny trademark applications?
Applications are routinely rejected based on the “likelihood of confusion” standard. According to the USPTO, “likelihood of confusion exists between trademarks when the marks are so similar and the goods and/or services for which they are used are so related that consumers would mistakenly believe they come from the same source. Each application is decided on its own facts, and no strict mechanical test exists for determining likelihood of confusion.” As you can see, there is no bright line rule to follow. That’s why utilizing an attorney experienced with the USPTO makes sense.
How long does it take to register a trademark?
The total time for an application to be processed may be anywhere from almost a year to several years, depending on the basis for filing, and the legal issues which can take place during the examination of the application.
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