Did you know that the name of your business, your logo, and even the style of the script may all be considered intellectual property rights? These are rights which you may already own and should consider protecting. A “trademark,” “service mark,” or simply “mark” is any word, name, symbol, device, or a combination of these which is used to identify and distinguish goods or services and indicate their source.
Your company name, or any symbol used to identify either the goods sold by your business or services provided, may be a mark worth protecting by registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If you are using a mark, common law provides some protection, but the protection from federal registration is much broader both geographically and in its protection against use by others.
Benefits of USPTO registration include:
- Right to use the ® symbol
- Staking your claim to ownership of the mark by a legal presumption of ownership of the mark and exclusive right to use the mark nationwide
- Putting others on notice - USPTO registration provides public notice of your ownership claim, eliminating a good faith defense for infringers
- Access to Federal Court and additional damages for infringement
For USPTO registration, your mark must be unique enough to avoid a “likelihood of confusion” with other registered marks. For this reason, a search should be conducted before filing an application. Likelihood of confusion is the most common reason for rejection of an application.
To file an application with the USPTO, you will need to provide:
- Owner of the mark
- Date of first use of the mark or when you intend to begin use
- Type of goods or services identified by your mark
- Elements of your mark you want to protect - a logo, the name itself, the style or lettering of the name, colors, or other variations
- Good quality drawing of the mark and an example of its use
- Description of any stylized or drawn aspects of the mark
Once approved by a USPTO examiner, the mark will be published for opposition in the “Official Gazette.” After thirty days from publication, if no opposition has been filed to a mark in use, the mark may proceed to registration. After registration, to prevent expiration of your mark, you will need to file a document with the USPTO between the 5th and 6th year showing that you are still using the mark, then between the 9th and 10th year, and every 10 years thereafter.
In addition to these filings, you will need to protect your federally registered trademark rights by using your mark regularly and by consistently preventing others from using your mark.