Trademarks: What You Need to Know
There are several ways individuals and businesses can protect their assets. One of them, the trademark, enables the owner of a good or service to distinguish her or his assets from those of someone else. Anyone who is interested in securing a trademark should understand the level of protection it will provide as well as the process to register one.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a brand or brand identifier that is typically registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO notes that a trademark can be used to identify any physical goods, and a service mark is used to distinguish an intangible item, like a service, to benefit other people. There are also certification marks, collective marks, collective membership marks, collective trademarks and collective service marks. For the sake of simplicity, the USPTO notes that each of these can be termed as a trademark because the benefits are mostly the same.
What Items Are Trademarked?
The actual items to receive a trademark are typically those that are associated with a brand. For example, a name, symbol, word or logo can be trademarked. Additionally, a three-dimensional figure can be trademarked, such as the way an item is packaged. Drawings and even numerals may be trademarked as well. Essentially, someone who is opening a business may want to have any of these items trademarked to ensure competitors cannot try to mislead customers by placing that name or logo on their items as well.
Should Trademarks Be Registered?
Registering a trademark is not required, as business owners have rights to the mark when they use it legitimately. However, people who register the trademark stand to gain certain legal advantages in the event that someone infringes on their mark. For example, a registered trademark means that there has been notice that the mark has been claimed. Further, in order to take action against someone in a federal court, the owner of a mark must have registered it.
What Are the Benefits of a Registered Trademark?
Having a registered trademark can, as discussed above, prevent other people from using similar marks or attempting to register similar marks. Once the mark is registered, it is considered to be in use nationwide. Therefore, if a business expands, it will have rights to the name, logo or other marked item in any geographic area. Without that registration, it is possible that the mark will only have protection in certain areas.
Additionally, registering a trademark gives the owner a set date from which the mark is considered to be in use. This can be particularly advantageous when having to prove that one business owns the rights because courts often base rulings on first use.
Lastly, if a business expands internationally, having a registered trademark can provide a foundation for protection elsewhere. In fact, the USPTO notes that federal customs and border control agencies can actually prevent imports if they bear a mark that infringes on a registered trademark.
When Can I Use TM, SM and Â® symbols?
A trademark symbol, or TM, and a service mark symbol, or SM, can actually be used anytime once a business owner claims rights to a mark. This is true regardless of whether or not an application has been filed with the USPTO. To use the registration symbol, however, the application must have been filed and accepted. Further, that symbol is only permissible for use associated with the actual items that have been trademarked.
What Is the Registration Process?
To register a trademark with the USPTO, the owner of a mark can fill out an application online and file it through the Trademark Electronic Application System. People who do not have Internet access can call the USPTO to request a form to be sent via mail.
Any application should be double checked for accuracy. Included must be a drawing of whatever the item is that will be trademarked, even if it is just a word without any particular style to it. Applicable fees should be included as well.
How Much Does a Registered Trademark Cost?
There are several different categories that a trademark could fall into, and the application fee is based on that. People who file on paper will owe $375. Those using the online system will pay less, between $225 and $325, depending on the class of the good or service requiring the trademark. The USPTO warns that fees could change, and applicants should either consult with the current schedule posted online or through calling the contact center.
Trademarks and other concerns regarding intellectual property rights can become complex, especially when there is a suspicion of infringement. Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a professional.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.