A trademark is any word, slogan, or symbol used in commerce to distinguish your goods and services from those of others. In the United States, logo rights begin whenever you start using a specific trademark. However, those intellectual property (IP) rights become stronger when you register that symbol with the state or federal government. Trademark registration gives you a legal right to prevent others from using a confusingly similar word, slogan, or symbol (but not to prevent others from offering the same goods or services under another trademark).
Trademarks and patents for interstate and international commerce should be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but the process of registering a trademark can be lengthy and complex. You must meet very precise requirements in order to successfully register a trademark and once registered, you must take action to protect your trademark by pursuing infringement cases.
How Do You Get a Trademark and What Protections Do You Get?
Trademarks are issued by the USPTO for logos, brand names, slogans and other unique and iconic elements that represent your brand or business. Trademarks establish source or product recognition and help consumers to identify products and the origins of goods. Before even starting the application process, your IP lawyer will work with you to evaluate your mark and to determine whether the mark would be “protectable” and sufficiently unique. Without USPTO registration, you’re limited to state protection through common law rights.
You will be required to complete an application, which is then reviewed by an examining attorney who works on behalf of the USPTO. If there is an issue present, you will be provided with information on why your application was rejected. Applicants are provided an opportunity to remedy the problem and resubmit.
Once the examining attorney accepts your proposed trademark and application the USPTO will publish the mark in the Official Gazette, a publication that trademark holders routinely review to ensure there are no new proposed trademarks that would conflict with your existing trademark. If there are oppositions, the matter is addressed before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB).
If nobody opposes your proposed mark during the publication period, your trademark will typically be registered and you’ll receive a formal trademark registration certificate from the USPTO. Regular maintenance documents and fees must be submitted periodically to keep your trademark registration active. We can assist with this, along with all phases of the trademark application process, including TTAB hearings and pursuing infringement cases.
Once you successfully register a trademark, you will have exclusive rights to that mark. This means that if another party wishes to use your trademark, they must seek permission and pay an appropriate fee. If someone uses your trademark without authorization, you have the right to file a lawsuit and seek damages, including lost revenues and legal costs. The term of your trademark is indefinite as long as you continue to use and police your trademark through their respective goods and services.
Where is a Trademark Valid? Is My Trademark Good Outside of the United States?
A federal trademark registration is evidence of your exclusive ownership and right to use that trademark. Trademark registration with the USPTO protects a symbol within U.S. borders. You’re also allowed to request seizure by U.S. Customs of goods entering the country with a counterfeit or infringing trademark. Individual states also register trademarks, and this means additional (although geographically limited) symbol rights. International brand and trademark protection is also available by registering in individual countries or multi-nationally through several treaties and conventions.
How Can Your Business Lawyer Help with the Trademarking Process?
A trademark application process always involves specific procedures and there are a number of potential legal issues that you may encounter. The help of an experienced lawyer is imperative. In many cases, the USPTO will ask for concessions that can leave you – even after registration – with few logo rights or protections. Unfortunately, many only realize this problem once they’re already in court or facing litigation.
A Few Of Our Trademark Clients
Every business owner knows the importance of an eye-catching logo — but protecting you unique design is equally as important. This can be any word, slogan, or symbol used in commerce to distinguish your goods and services from others.