Trademark Basics

If you have a logo, slogan or company name, word or phrase that identifies your goods or services, you may want to consider getting trademark protection for it (learn more about trademarking your business name here).  The good news is that if you’ve been using the mark you probably already have some common law ownership rights to it.  It’s probably also a good idea to put the world on notice that you’re claiming the mark by using the symbol “™” next to your mark.

If you want more protection for your mark than the common law provides, you can register the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Before applying for a trademark you’ll need to conduct a search to make sure that your mark has not already been registered.  To be complete, you should search federal, state and common law marks. You can file for a trademark electronically or through the mail, and there are different types of trademark applications depending on whether you have been using the mark or not.  The process takes from several months up to a few years, but ten to sixteen months is about average.  Registered trademark owners get additional protections and legal remedies than common law trademark owners, including the right to put ® after the mark and a presumption of ownership over the mark in a court of law.

You don’t need an attorney to register a trademark but many applicants choose to use one, because the search and application process can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. Many law firms offer trademark application services on a flat-fee basis.

- Claire Kalia

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