If you are a business owner or brand manager, is your logo, brand name or tagline registered with the United States Patent & Trade Office? Do you know how to check to see if a brand name you are considering is already registered with USPTO? If the answer is NO to any of these questions, dive in with us to learn the importance of owning your brand’s trademark and how to work with a trademark attorney.
Trademarking is important if you are going to sell products via e-commerce, market products or services nationally or internationally, license material, programs or your intellectual property (IP) or eventually, sell your company.
So let’s talk about what you might trademark: logo, mark, name, product names or services and tagline. Trademarking your brand components is your responsibility. Branding agencies or marketing firms do not file trademarks. They are not legal experts so even if they offer it as part of their service, understand that you are not getting a legal professional.
Before you contact an attorney or finalize your brand, here are the steps you can do on your own as part of the trademarking process.
- Check the domain / URL availability. We use GoDaddy to see if a brand name is available as a website address. This is free and easy to do. You do not have to use Go Daddy; any domain registrar site will work.
- Conduct a Google and social media search. If you were your customer or potential client and you Googled the new company or product name, what would you find? Does somebody in your space use the name you are considering? Or, is there a potential for confusion? Or, a company using the domain or handle that you don’t want to be associated with?
- Check with your state’s Secretary of State office. Is the name available to register as a business or nonprofit organization in your home state? This is an easy and free search to do online.
- Perform an initial trademark search on USPTO.gov. Use the TESS feature. This is easy to find by going to the Find it Fast link in the main navigation bar. Under Trademarks, select “search trademark database.” Once there, search the brand name, tagline, product name or whatever you are looking to trademark. An attorney will do a much more thorough search but this is a good first step.
Once you complete these initial steps, contact a trademark attorney. Be sure to work with a trademark attorney to properly search and file your trademark. Most likely, this will be a different attorney than your business attorney and one that has a special certification from the USPTO. We also recommend not using LegalZoom or other online legal services. It is best to work with an attorney one-on-one to be sure you get specific legal recommendations for your brand.
The process typically involves a consultation, a thorough availability search, the attorney’s recommendation for which categories to file under, and then the actual filing of the trademark. Then you wait for the trademark to go through a vetting process before it can be awarded to you. This is the longest part and takes several months.