If you like it then you’d better put a trademark on it…
Because the last thing you want is for someone else to come along and steal your business name, tag line, or that awesome name you came up with for your new product or service.
Don’t think it’ll happen to you?
Think again. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear from someone who failed to put a stake in the ground when it came to their company name, logo, tagline, or product name.
A federal trademark registration gives you substantial and exclusive rights that would not otherwise be available to you under common law.
Registering a trademark is a process, and an expensive one at that. That’s why I always advise people to make sure it’s going to be a mark they intend to use for a long time.
Many attorneys charge a flat fee for registering a trademark and legal fees can run you anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and your application may still be denied. Nearly half of all trademark applications are rejected, something that might be avoided if only a proper and more cost-effective “knock out search” had been conducted, first.
I offer my clients a 30-minute Trademark Consult, designed to make sure they’re on the right track when it comes to choosing whether to trademark a word or phrase for their business. The last thing you want is to go through the trademark process without first ruling out the likelihood of having your application rejected. I conduct a preliminary “knock-out” or “direct hit” search to rule out any obvious infringement issues. I also review your proposed trademark to determine whether it’s likely to be considered distinctive enough to pass muster with trademark examiners. After a consult you’re much more informed as to whether you should pursue federal registration.
30-minute Trademark Consult: $197
If a preliminary search reveals there are no obvious obstacles to your trademark application, you can then decide whether to proceed with hiring an attorney to help register your mark. This would entail a deep level search that includes a standard search of the Federal Trademark Database, plus all registered, pending, expired, canceled, or abandoned trademarks and service marks. This type of search also includes state trademark registrations, common law marks, and registered business names. In short, a deep level search is not likely going to be something you can do yourself. Always ask any attorney you might hire what happens if a deep level search reveals potential conflicts. You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to an attorney up front if there’s a fairly good chance your registration will be denied.
If a deep-level search turns up any hits that could impede your trademark application, you can decide to go back to the drawing board and cut your losses. It’s far better to start with a blank slate. Don’t pursue a trademark registration if there is any chance of a conflict in the future–there will likely be too much at stake by that point.
Formal trademark registration should only be pursued once you’re fairly confident that there is a reasonably good chance your registration will be successful.
There are never any guarantees that your trademark application will be accepted. There’s no predicting what the trademark examiner’s office will do. It’s never a “slam dunk.” This is why you want to be sure to do your homework up front, ruling out any potential infringement issues.
Keep in mind, too, that even if your registration is approved, you still could face infringement charges by someone who claims to own the mark, or one that is “confusingly similar.” The trademark office doesn’t rule out the possibility that another company may come forward with a claim that they’ve already been using the mark in commerce, despite your successful federal registration.
Federal trademark registration can also take a long time, up to 18 months, depending on how many “office actions” there are. Office actions are inquiries/further requests and/or requirements from the trademark office about your application. This is when legal fees can really start to add up because, at this stage, you are being billed by the hour by an attorney. Still, you don’t want to be responding to office actions on your own. This is a complex legal process and one that is best not undertaken without a solid understanding of trademark law. All the more reason to do your homework up front before diving into the often murky waters of trademark registration.
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