The United States Patent and Trademark Office define a trademark as “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” Coca-Cola and Pepsi are considered trademarks, where as ‘soda’ or ‘pop’ are not. Essentially, a trademark would be any kind of brand name or slogan associated with the brand name. A service mark fits the same definition, but distinguishes a service rather than a good.
If you are starting your own business, you need to know how to file a trademark in order to protect your company’s name or slogan. Before you name your company or come up with a slogan, it’s advisable that you search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for existing trademarks.
Many people choose to use a lawyer when filing for a trademark because the process can be slightly more complicated and a trademark is far less likely to be easily accepted than a copyright. Also, in order to file for a trademark, you have to be the owner of your company. Despite the process being more complicated than filing for a copyright, you shouldn’t be intimidated from filing on your own.
Here are the steps you need to take to file a trademark:
1. Know exactly what your mark looks like and how it will be used.
2. File your initial form in the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).
3. Pay associated fees.
Identify Mark and Goods and Services
Before you begin, you need to have the exact, final form of your mark developed. You must also be specific about the goods and services associated with your mark, and you must be clear about whether you are currently using the mark in association with those goods and services, or whether you have full intention to do so.
Filing an Initial Form with TEAS
When you file, you will use the initial form, found on this page. You will file either a TEAS or TEAS Plus form. TEAS Plus is a more affordable way to file, but the requirements are stricter.
If you plan to use your trademark for multiple uses, you must pay a fee and file for each one of those uses. Your business name, for example, may be used in association with your business, but putting it on mugs and selling those mugs would require an additional trademark.
That being said, the standard fee for filing with TEAS is $325, while the fee for filing with TEAS Plus is $275. Fees can be paid by credit card, check, money order, Electronic Fund Transfer, or USPTO Deposit Accounts.
Be aware that it’s likely you might pay additional fees. A complete list of current fees is available here.
Note that all fees are processing fees, and will not be returned to you, regardless of the outcome of your filing attempts.
Registration of your mark is not guaranteed. Do your research ahead of time, and good luck!